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Beyond the metrics: how higher education needs to refine and enhance assessment

23 Jan 2024 | Dr Kay Hack and Stuart Norton Following the publication of Enhancing Assessment in Higher Education, Advance HE’s Lead Consultant (Education), Dr Kay Hack, and Senior Consultant (Education), Stuart Norton, show how the new framework can enhance student success.

The ongoing challenge 

Assessment remains a perennial problem for educators. While practice has undoubtedly improved since the Higher Education Academy published the Transforming Assessment in Higher Education Framework in 2016, it remains a focal point for student dissatisfaction with their student experience. Data from the UK National Student Survey (NSS,2023) indicates that while students were mostly happy with the level of academic support they received (scores between 83 and 84 per cent), some aspects of assessment and feedback are still a relative weakness, with just 72 per cent of students agreeing feedback helped to improve their work and 76 per cent feeling that marking criteria were clear. While this data is from the UK perspective, it resonates with our global members who also report it as an area where students do not feel they are completely supported.   

The 2016 Framework built on a range of sector good practice. It was informed by the works of ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange) and the Assessment Standards: a Manifesto for Change; Feedback: and Agenda for Change. The focus was on transformation, encouraging educators to imagine a university where exams are stepping stones, feedback sparked curiosity, and learning was a vibrant journey fuelled by diverse assessments. This was the future of higher education – a future where enhancing assessment was at the heart of improved learning and teaching. 

From transforming to enhancing 

Fast forward several years and the sector now focuses on ‘enhancing’ rather than ‘transforming’. Many positive steps have been taken; however, challenges persist, as emphasised in Advance HE’s recent literature review Impacts of higher education assessment and feedback policy and practice on students: a review of the literature 2016-2021 by Edd Pitt and Kathleen M. Quinlan, University of Kent. 

So where next?  

Research confirms that better assessment isn't just about tweaking rubrics. It's about crafting an ecosystem that nurtures deeper learning, student satisfaction and equips graduates for the challenges of our time and an uncertain future. Authenticity, sustainability and inclusivity are more than ‘buzz words’ they are necessary to be woven consistently into the fabric of assessment, enhancing the programmatic experience of all students and supporting their trajectories after graduation.  

This enhancement isn't a solo act. It's a symphony requiring academics, professional services staff, students and employers harmonising their voices. Together, we can enhance learner progression across the student experience, aligning the extra curricula with the core content, ensuring work related learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum and engaging and addressing challenges of learning that transcends the academic, personal and professional dimensions of the student journey.  

New framework for enhancing assessment 

Enhancing Assessment in Higher Education provides a structure to review and refine current practices. It supports regular dialogue to keep curriculum fresh and relevant, ensuring students learn the skills needed to navigate the complexities of the 21st century. It encourages assessment policies to evolve organically, embracing transparency, fairness and inclusivity, building trust in the academic process and remaining flexible to adapt to new challenges, while continuing to support student success. Similarly, it points to the need to invest in the eco-system and assessment infrastructure. Technology continues to be a conductor, and this needs to be embraced to support academics - powering tools for timely feedback, peer assessment and data analysis, allowing institutions to continuously fine-tune their assessment strategies and not seen solely through a deficit model around the risks of essay mills or AI to academic integrity.  

By embracing the framework, the aim is to provide an assessment structure that arms students with the diverse skills necessary to develop a growth mindset, ready to graduate with the required ability to tackle real-world problems. It allows institutions to continue to ensure confidence in academic standards, demonstrating responsiveness to contemporary needs and supporting local communities, civic responsibilities and wider society by empowering a generation of adaptable, responsible citizens equipped to build a better future. 


Assessment remains both the most challenging and vital aspect of a quality higher education experience; there are no quick fixes. However, we believe that this framework can promote reflection and continuous enhancement where there is a shared commitment to student success. Assessment is a key aspect of student success; it has a critical role in measuring attainment. It also needs to support curiosity, recognise diverse talents and shape future-proofed graduates.  


Stuart Norton and Dr Kay Hack are part of the Education Team at Advance HE, where they support strategic change in key thematic areas for successful student outcomes. Central to that work is leading evidence-based reviews and engaging with the global sector to distil the evidence into concise frameworks, designed to support institutions and educators improve the student experience and outcomes. 


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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