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Disclaimer: This page is only for reference by staff and students at TEIs operating under the Common Awards scheme.
Durham University staff and students should instead refer to the Learning and Teaching Handbook here.

The information on this page is reviewed every three months.


Extract from Durham University Learning & Teaching Handbook

Section 6: Principles of Assessment


Assessment is the process by which the University appraises the knowledge, understanding and skills of its students.  Durham's assessment policies and procedures therefore need to be a cornerstone of the University's approach to assuring the academic standards of its awards.  Assessment also plays a key role in the student learning process, and consequently is crucially important to the quality of the learning opportunities the University provides to its students.  Consequently, the University has agreed the following principles of assessment that underpin its comprehensive range of assessment policies, procedures and practices.




1.      Assessment will be valid


Assessment will be explicitly designed to measure student achievement of the intended learning outcomes, and all intended learning outcomes will be summatively assessed.

The processes for the approval of new modules and programmes, and for amending existing modules and programmes, will ensure that assessment is an integral part of module and programme design, and the ongoing validity of assessment will be considered through annual and periodic review.  This consideration is supported throughout by the external subject specialists, by external examiners in relation to module approval/module amendments/programme amendments and annual review, and by external subject specialists other than external examiners in programme approval and periodic review.


2.      Assessment will be reliable


To ensure the level of consistency that is necessary for assessment to be reliable, all awards at the same academic level will be aligned with the University's generic qualification descriptor, level descriptor and assessment criteria for that level of award.  Additionally, all awards will be made in accordance with the relevant core regulations of the University, unless a special case for an exception to the relevant core regulations has been approved by EC.

There will be clear and consistent policies and procedures for the marking of assessed work, and for the quality assurance of the assessment process.  These processes will be supported by the University's external examiner system, with all external examiners being asked to report on the reliability of assessment.


3.      Assessment will be equitable


The University recognises that different assessment methods may be appropriate for different learning styles, and it therefore encourages all programmes to employ (in a way that is consistent with the intended learning outcomes being assessed) a diversity of assessment methods to allow all students to demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills.

The University is also aware of the need to make individual assessment arrangements for students with disabilities and other special requirements, and will ensure that appropriate processes are in place to consider and address such needs.


4.      Assessment will be explicit and transparent


Prior to undertaking any assessment task, students will be clearly informed of the purpose and requirements of the task and will be provided with the specific assessment criteria that will be used for marking it.  Feedback to students will be related to the stated learning outcomes and specific assessment criteria.

Clear information on the policies and processes relating to assessment will be easily available to all involved in the assessment process.


5.      Assessment will support the student learning process


All assessment tasks influence the way in which students approach their learning, and this will be taken into account in the design of all assessment tasks.

In every module all students will receive timely feedback on assessed work, that is aligned with the outcomes being assessed, and the criteria against which these outcomes are assessed, and therefore allows them to identify how they can improve their performance.  Students will receive written feedback on all summatively assessed work apart from examinations.


6.      Assessment will be efficient


Assessment will be efficient for both students and staff such that learning outcomes are not overly assessed and that knowledge and skills can be sampled.


7.      Assessment outcomes will be monitored, and this monitoring used to support the enhancement of assessment policy and practice


Student performance in assessment tasks will be monitored on an annual basis by departments/schools, to ensure that assessment continues to be consistent with the principles of assessment outlined above.  The results of this monitoring will be reported to faculty and University level through reports on the annual review of learning and teaching, external examiners' reports and the conduct of boards of examiners.  The consistency of assessment, and the outcomes of assessment, with these principles will be further considered through the University's periodic review process.


8.      Staff involved in assessment will be competent to undertake their responsibilities in this area


The University will ensure that staff involved in the assessment process will have appropriate experience and training.