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Changes to policy and curriculum

Postgraduate pass mark

The Open University will be changing the pass mark for taught postgraduate modules to 50 per cent to bring us in line with the pass mark used by our validated Partner Institutions and the wider Higher Education sector. The pass mark will be changing, but the standard required to pass will remain the same - it will not become harder to achieve a pass.  The standards and scores required to attain a merit or distinction will not change.

These changes are being implemented for the following reasons:

  • To align The Open University’s pass mark with other UK Higher Education Institutions, the majority of which apply a 50 per cent mark when the pass criteria are met.
  • To provide consistency between students who are directly registered on taught postgraduate modules at The Open University (and currently get a pass mark of 40 per cent) and students on taught postgraduate modules at Partner Institutions which are validated by The Open University (but currently have a pass mark of 50 per cent).

Changing the pass mark doesn’t mean we’re changing our standards

Changing the pass mark doesn’t mean that we are changing our standards or making it more difficult to achieve a pass. Our external examiners have confirmed that the standards set for modules that they examine are appropriate for qualifications at this level and that the performance of Open University students is comparable with student performance elsewhere. This means that the criteria that students have to meet in order to achieve a pass mark of 40 per cent with The Open University are equivalent to those required to achieve 50 per cent at other institutions.

If the standard of a student’s work would have achieved a pass under the previous marking scheme (when the pass mark was 40) they will still achieve a pass under the new scheme. The University will be monitoring marking processes during the course of the module, and will run standard checks for EMA and exam marking at the end of modules, which will allow us to make sure that it hasn’t become ‘harder’ to pass the module.

Module assessments and marking schemes will be adapted to reflect the new pass mark.

When the changes will be introduced, and which modules are affected

The change to the pass mark will be phased in between 2020 and 2023 and will only affect taught postgraduate modules. For most taught postgraduate modules this change is scheduled to take place during the 2020/21 academic year (with modules starting from October 2020 onwards). A small number of modules are adopting the pass mark before this date, and students affected will be contacted.

To check what the pass mark is for a particular module presentation, this can be found in the Assessment Strategy text for a module, via StudentHome, or on the Assessment Tab of the module website.

If you wish to discuss how this change may affect you, contact your Student Support Team. You’ll find their contact details at Contact the OU.