Principles for effective degree algorithm design

report cover which includes a graphic of turning cogs As part of its ongoing commitment to fairness, transparency and reliability in degree classification, the UK higher education sector has committed to a new set of principles for effective degree algorithm design to protect the value of qualifications. Universities are autonomous institutions yet have taken the positive step of agreeing these common guiding principles to inform how they approach designing the method through which they classify undergraduate degrees. 

To be effective, an algorithm must:

  1. provide an appropriate and reliable summary of a student’s performance against the learning outcomes, reflecting the design, delivery and structure of a degree programme
  2. fairly reflect a student’s performance without unduly over-emphasising particular aspects, with consideration being taken at the design stage of how each element within a method of classification interacts with other elements
  3.  protect academic standards by adhering to the current conventions and national reference points used to define classification bands and boundaries
  4. normally be reviewed at least every five years – or alongside national cyclical review timetables – to ensure algorithms remain relevant and appropriate, with input from across the provider, including students, academic and non-academic staff, and accrediting bodies
  5. be designed and reviewed in a way that is mindful of the impact of different calculation approaches to classification for different groups of students
  6.  be communicated and explained clearly to students, both in how it works and why
This work has been delivered by Universities UK (UUK), GuildHE, and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) on behalf of the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA).

Degree algorithm practice in 2020: research report 

To support their implementation, the principles are accompanied by further explanatory guidance and illustrative examples of suggested practices in areas such weighting, discounting, and borderline policies.These principles build on the overview of current practice in the sector as outlined in the research report following considerable engagement with the sector across the UK.


cog and thread running through different colours

Universities agree further measures to tackle grade inflation

21 July 2020
​Universities from across the UK have agreed new principles to tackle grade inflation.

UUK response to government's higher education restructuring plan

16 July 2020
Universities UK has responded to the government's announcement on the higher education restructuring plan


The grades u-turn caused a ripple effect throughout education – it could be catastrophic for unis

25 August 2020
From over-stretched finances to lack of space and facilities, universities are facing a perfect storm of problems.

three students working at a computer

How we communicate student finance needs a rethink

16 December 2019
NEON's Graeme Atherton explains why the cost of higher education needs to be communicated to students more effectively.