The National HEAR Project

Overview

Picture of Big Ben and Thames at night

The HEAR was developed via a national project, originally launched in response to a government review into the measuring and recording of student achievement in higher education (see 2007 Burgess Report download).

The review concluded that the summative degree classification system was no longer fit-for-purpose, and that HEARs be used as the central vehicle for recording undergraduate achievement, in order to capture student achievement more holistically.

A national HEAR trial was undertaken (2008-2012) to investigate the feasibility of HEAR implementation across the sector. It was led by the Burgess Implementation Steering Group (which included student and employer representatives), and also involved:

  • the Centre for Recording Achievement (CRA)
  • the (former) Higher Education Academy (HEA)
  • the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)
  • a large number of higher education institutions who joined the HEAR trial in three main 'waves' (Sheffield joined in February 2011, as part of the 2nd wave)

On 3 October 2012 the final report and recommendation of the Burgess Implementation Steering Group on the HEAR was launched - the culmination of a process that began in 2004. This announced the success of the trial, including the public endorsement that had been secured by Universities UK, Guild HE, the government, and the European Commission, which sees the HEAR as an official variant of the European Diploma Supplement.

What's the government's position?

Although the HEAR is not mandatory, in the June 2011 HE White Paper (see downloads) the government announced its expectation that most institutions would develop HEARs for their undergraduates from September 2012 (p. 44; Section 3.44).

The February 2012 Wilson Review of Business-University Collaboration (see downloads) recommended the HEAR as a document for recording students' development, activities and achievements, both for the purpose of their self‐awareness and their employability (p. 2; Executive Summary, para. 6). In particular, the review commends the HEAR for providing 'a far greater granularity of achievement and currency than the blunt instruments of UCAS points or projected degree classification' (p. 70; Section 6.4.1), and notes that 'universities that have not committed to engaging with HEAR should reflect upon the impact of that decision upon the skills development and subsequent employment prospects of their graduates' (p. 41; Section 4.5.4).

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published a response to the Wilson Review in June 2012 (see downloads box on right), which included further endorsement of the HEAR:

'We know that the traditional model of degree classification is not sufficient alone to show potential employers the skills and achievements of an individual student. That is why BIS has encouraged the work [...] to develop the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). [...] We agree that because the Higher Education Achievement Report will provide a more extensive description of student achievement than a degree classification alone, it will help students to demonstrate to prospective employers their own achievements and skills, and we would encourage recruiters to make use of HEAR. [...] We expect the HEAR will increasingly be issued to graduates across the sector from the academic year 2012/13.' (p. 20; Section 3.6)

What do employers think?

There is a growing level of interest in the HEAR as a context for supporting student development, as well as supporting future applications for employment and postgraduate study. While the HEAR is primarily intended as a resource for students, feedback from employers of all shapes and sizes has consistently emphasised that they:

  • expect to reap benefits substantively but indirectly;
  • support HEAR as an aide memoire/resource for students;
  • welcome ‘richer pictures’ of student achievement but need these to be mediated through the student tailoring their application using the employer’s system;
  • see an electronic format as key – 'to be really useful, and used, the HEAR needs to be a seamless part of our process – it can’t involve extra work';
  • welcome access to verified information prior to graduation, and the business efficiencies that could potentially arise through being able to verify the HEAR electronically.

government-funded project was also led by the Association of Graduate Recruiters, to engage employers with the HEAR. The toolkit produced by AGR as part of this project, along with a range of other guidance, reports and presentations, is available from the national HEAR website:

What's happening now?

Currently, there are efforts underway to look at developing more robust HEAR governance at a national level, to help ensure that the HEAR remains fit-for-purpose and internationally competitive. This is especially in light of increasingly widespread efforts to facilitate the secure online sharing of award credentials/more granular student achievement reports across the globe (e.g. Comprehensive Learner Records in the USA, My eQuals in Australia and New Zealand, China Credentials Verification, the new Europass project’s focus on digitally-signed credentials).