Degree regulations

Information relating to Degree of Master, Postgraduate Diploma and Postgraduate Certificate.

If you have any questions about the degree regulations or your own provisional results, please speak to your Programme Director, Programme Administrator or the Head of Postgraduate Services.

An introduction to Postgraduate Taught Degree Regulations

Postgraduate Taught degrees at the University of Manchester are based on the National Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ). This framework requires students to achieve credit at masters’ level in order to get an award. For a standard postgraduate taught Masters programme this will normally mean passing 180 credits. A standard postgraduate diploma will normally have 120 credits and a postgraduate certificate 60 credits. The way in which you study these credits will be defined later in your programme handbook and the programme specification.

The University sets standards relating to your performance on every unit but also on your progression through the programme. Your programme and course unit specifications will set out the requirements for passing the credit on individual units.

What happens if I fail some units?

First of all don’t panic, but the first thing to do is sit down with your academic adviser or Programme Director who will take you through your options. The regulations allow you further attempts of up to half the taught credits, for a standard masters programme as defined by your programme specification, so you can still get back on track. In addition, you may also resubmit your Dissertation on one further occasion, subject to the Examination Board’s decision.

This is known as ‘referred assessment’ and these reassessments will normally take place in the same academic year as the original assessment. The Examination Board will then make decisions on your progress and advise you accordingly of the decisions and next steps. Referred assessment at Masters level will be capped at 40% and this is the mark that will be shown on a transcript of results as a 40R. (the capped mark is applied to the unit level mark, not just the failed element). It is this mark that will be used to calculate your final degree classification.

If you pass most of your units and only ‘just’ fail some of them, there may be a possibility of the examination board compensating this failed credit. This means if your mark was between 40-49% at Masters level the examination board is able to compensate up to a maximum of 30 credits. Your transcript of results will show the actual mark achieved (e.g. 47C).

If you are on a postgraduate diploma or certificate programme then the overall pass mark will normally be 40%. The same logic for managing reassessment will be applied to these programmes but the mark will be capped at 30R and compensation can be applied for marks between 30-39%. You can be referred in up to half the taught credits on a postgraduate diploma or certificate programme and compensated in up to 30 credits on a postgraduate diploma programme and 15 credits on the postgraduate certificate programme.


Some programmes, particularly those which are externally accredited or linked to professional practice may set a higher pass rate than stated in the regulations. These programme exemptions (if applicable) will be clearly detailed in your handbook.

What happens if I fail my resits?

Upon taking the referred assessment, if you fail again the Examination Board will make a decision with regards to your progress. The possible options available may, in exceptional circumstances, include repeating the unit or being awarded an exit award once you've exhausted all the opportunities to retrieve failed assessment.

Referrals may also be compensated; so if you manage to achieve a mark at referral of between 40-49% at Masters level, this may be compensated providing you haven’t already used your quota of compensatable credit. Compensated referrals will be capped at 40 and this is the mark (40R) that will show on your transcript of results and be used to calculate your final degree classification.

Again if you are on a postgraduate diploma or certificate programme then the pass mark and compensation mark range will be adjusted according to the lower pass rate.

What happens if I fail my dissertation?

If you fail your dissertations at the first attempt you will be given the opportunity to resubmit a revised version of the dissertation. You will normally be given up to six months in which to make the requested revisions or undertaken additional work. You will be provided with feedback from your examiners and guidance on the revisions required to bring the work to the appropriate standard for the Masters award.

How is my degree calculated?

To be considered for a Masters Degree you must have achieved 180 credits at the appropriate level. Don't worry if you have had a referral or compensation as these still count towards your credit total for a Pass or Merit. If, however, you have undertaken any referred assessment or been compensated you will not be eligible for a Distinction.

The award of Masters is based upon gaining the required number of credits, normally 180. Classifications for merit or distinctions will be calculated on the basis of an average mark, based on the weighted programme as a whole.

If you are completing a Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate programme then these degrees are only awarded as a pass.

When and how are decisions made about my results and my progress?

There are normally three available assessment opportunities within each academic year:

  • January
  • May/June
  • August/September

It is expected that all your attempts at referral assessment will take place in the same academic year in which the assessment was first taken. After each assessment period there is an ‘Examination Board’.

Members of the Examination Board normally include your unit tutors, programme directors and overseen by an external examiner from another university. It is the job of the Examination Board to review all the results anonymously and make decisions on the award of credit and who can resit exams / assessment or gain compensation. It is also the role of the Examination Board to decide who cannot continue and will leave the University with an exit award. Some students will narrowly miss the threshold for a degree classification and so we look at their pattern of marks (Mark Distribution) and may look at their examined work (Mark Review).

What do I do if I wish to appeal?

The University has clear and fair procedures which set out the course of action should you wish to appeal against an Examination Board decision or make a complaint. There are a number of grounds on which an appeal may be made, however, an appeal which questions the academic or professional judgement of those charged with assessing your academic performance or professional competence will not be permitted.

The relevant regulations and forms can be found here:

If you have any questions or concerns about the appeals process, in the first instance, we would urge you to contact the Head of Postgraduate Services (Bernadette O'Connor) who will be able to talk you through the decision-making process for appeals.