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Inclusive assessment

What is inclusive assessment?

An inclusive assessment regime allows an entire cohort of diverse students to demonstrate their ability to meet the learning outcomes of their programme. A student's background, race, religion, gender, sexuality, age, marital status or disability should not impact on their opportunity to learn and to evidence that learning.

When developing a programme or a module, you should anticipate potential problems when planning assessments. Inclusive assessments prevent these problems arising or at least keep them to a minimum. This part of the Engaging Everyone toolkit will help you with this.

Why should assessments be inclusive?

Legal requirements

The University has a legal responsibility not to discriminate against students on the grounds that they have one or more protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010: disability (including serious illness), age, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

There is a specific prohibition on disability discrimination. This arises where the disabled person is treated less favourably than someone without a disability. There is an exception if it can be shown that the less favourable treatment is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

Regulatory requirements and moral responsibility

The QAA UK Quality Code for Higher Education requires higher education providers to promote equality:

An inclusive environment for learning anticipates the varied requirements of learners, for example, because of a declared disability, specific cultural background, location, or age, and aims to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities…

…In addition, disabled students and non-disabled students are offered learning opportunities, which are equally accessible to them, by means of inclusive design wherever possible and by means of responsible individual adjustments wherever necessary.1

Certain groups of students may be disadvantaged by different forms of assessment depending on their previous education and social background. Some may have no experience of the types of assessment typically encountered at undergraduate level. The University has a moral responsibility to ensure that these students have the same opportunity to demonstrate their engagement with the learning outcomes as all other students.

Can't we just make reasonable adjustments for individual students?

No. Making reasonable adjustments for individual students in relation to assessment, such as extra time or substituting a different form of assessment from the one prescribed, are reactive measures. They only help students to cope with prescribed forms of assessment where they might otherwise struggle.

An inclusive assessment regime should allow most, if not all, students to demonstrate their level of achievement in relation to the learning outcomes. This may not eliminate the need for reasonable adjustments altogether, but should dramatically reduce the number required. This also reduces the costs to the University associated with providing reasonable adjustments.


1 QAA (2013). UK Quality Code for Higher Education. Part B: Assuring and enhancing academic quality. Chapter B1: Programme design, development and approval. 5.

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