Official statistic

Key performance measure 3

Assessment and awards

KPM 3 measures the proportion of students who graduate with first class degrees.

Proportion of full-time undergraduate students achieving first class degrees

One of our strategic goals is that students are rigorously assessed, and that the qualifications they are awarded are credible and comparable to those granted previously. Our strategy says that we will investigate where providers’ assessment and awarding practices may not meet our requirements and take action to address any issues.

If our approach to regulating assessment and awards is having the desired effect, providers that do not meet our minimum regulatory requirements for credible and comparable awards will be incentivised to do so. The substantial increase in the proportion of students achieving first class degrees over the past decade, shown by KPM 3, should therefore slow, level off or reverse.

KPM 3 shows that the proportion of students awarded first class degrees in 2021-22 was 32.5 per cent. This proportion had increased every year between 2010-11 and 2020-21, but in 2021-22 it decreased for the first time from a high of 37.0 per cent in 2020-21.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many providers made changes to their assessment and awarding practices. This was to ensure that students were not disadvantaged by the impact of the pandemic. Providers did not adopt a single approach and the impact of these changes will have varied from provider to provider. It is not possible to determine the extent to which these actions contributed to the large increase in the proportion of students receiving first class degrees in 2019-20, or to the further increase in 2020-21.

We have further analysed the changes in the proportion of first class degrees awarded over the past decade. Our analysis considers the extent to which these changes can be accounted for by changes in the graduate population.

KPM 3 uses individualised student data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record and the Individualised Learner Record from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). It is based on full-time undergraduate degree (first degree and degrees including a postgraduate component) graduates domiciled in the UK obtaining classified honours degrees from higher education providers in England.

Before 2020-21, all higher education providers in England are included. For 2020-21 onwards we include only providers who were registered with the OfS at some point between 1 August and 31 July in each academic year. This means the number of providers included in each year will vary.

Contact us

If you have any queries, feedback or suggestions about KPM 3, please contact Annalise Ruck at [email protected].

Published 08 September 2022
Last updated 23 March 2023
23 March 2023
Update to include 2021-22 data.

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