Assessment issues arising from Subject Benchmarking Statements

Subject Benchmark Statements

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Subject Benchmark Statements

Subject benchmarking is a consequence of the Dearing Report (NCIHE, 1997) which proposed it in the interests of transparency for the various stakeholders in higher education. In prefaces to the first 22 subject benchmark statements3, the QAA (2000b) states as follows.

Subject benchmark statements provide a means for the academic community to describe the nature and characteristics of programmes in a specific subject. They also represent general expectations about the standards for the award of qualifications at a given level and articulate the attributes and capabilities that those possessing such qualifications should be able to demonstrate.
The QAA makes the further point that the benchmark statements refer to the Bachelor’s degree with honours4.
Subject benchmark statements provide general guidance regarding programmes in the relevant subject area but do not offer curricular prescriptions. Such general guidance is intended to be useful (but again not prescriptive) for those designing programmes and assessing learning, for external examiners and for quality assurance purposes.
The subject benchmark statements are the product of the work of panels of academics (and, occasionally, others) with relevant knowledge and expertise. The first three, in Chemistry, History and Law, were pilot ventures in which the panels approached the task of producing the statements in very different ways. Subsequent statements, conducted in the light of the pilots, have a broadly common format, though even within this format there is considerable variation in the extent of detail that the panels felt it appropriate to include5.
The primary focus in this report is upon the following.

  • Statements of attributes that a graduate in the subject might be expected to demonstrate in terms of disciplinary knowledge, understanding and skills and of other skills and attributes that have, for convenience if not semantic accuracy, been subsumed under the heading of ‘generic skills’.

  • The criteria that would be used to determine whether a graduate satisfied the ‘threshold’ standard for the award of an honours degree in the subject.

The terms ‘intended learning outcomes’ and ‘performance criteria’ are used to distinguish these two types of information.

The report is based on the following subject benchmark statements.


Architecture, Architectural Technology and Landscape Architecture


Classics and Ancient History


Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences and Environmental Studies


Education Studies



General Business and Management



Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism


Librarianship and Information Management


Politics and International Relations

Social Policy & Administration and Social Work


Theology and Religious Studies

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