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Key Information Sets


Key Information Sets (KIS) are comparable sets of information about full or part-time undergraduate courses at Higher Education Institutions in England and Wales. The KIS data is designed to allow students to make informed decisions when choosing a university course.

Information incorporated into KIS includes:

All KIS information is published on the Unistats website and can also be accessed via the University’s Course Finder web pages. Further information about the data and how it is compiled is also available on the national KIS website.

The majority of the data required to produce the KIS is supplied to HEFCE by Registry & Academic Services as part of the HESA return. However Schools are responsible for maintaining information about contact hours, assessment details and the proportion of a programme available through the medium of Welsh. This is already undertaken as part of the annual programme management tasks in the Student Information Management System (SIMS). Guidance on how to define the learning activities used for each module and the assessment methods is below (click each title to expand the guidance).

A PDF of this guidance is also available to download:

Download: KIS Guidance – Learning and Teaching Hours

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Learning and Teaching Activities (Contact Hours)

Each Key Information Set publishes information about the time that a registered undergraduate student will spend in a) scheduled b) independent and c) placement activities.  In determining the proportion of student study time spent in each type of activity it is expected that you should use the convention that one credit point equates to 10 learning hours.  Given that the time in scheduled learning and teaching activities and placements is likely to be most accurately measured, it is expected that the proportion of guided independent study will typically be derived as the number of hours remaining after taking into account hours spent in placements and scheduled learning and teaching activities.

The following information must be held against each undergraduate module in the Student Information Management System (SIMS).

Learning Activities Indicative Hours KIS Category
Classroom-based lectures SCHEDULED
Classroom-based seminars and/or tutorials
Scheduled online activities (online versions of the above)
Practical classes and workshops
Supervised time in studio/laboratory/workshop
External visits
Work-based learning
Scheduled examination/assessment
General Scheduled
Year Abroad
Guided Independent Study INDEPENDENT

Learning Activity Definitions

The following definitions have been adapted from those provided by the QAA and provided to aid your understanding of the Learning Activities categories outlined in the template above.

Scheduled Learning Activities

Classroom-based lectures

The term ‘lecture’ covers everything from the traditional model, where a single member of the institution’s staff or an affiliate introduces ideas or delivers facts to a group of students, to approaches that might be much more interactive, involve a variety of contributors, make use of a range of media and technologies.  Lectures are assumed, in general, to involve larger groups of students than do seminars and tutorials but size will vary depending upon the nature of what is being taught, the size of the overall student cohort, and practical concerns.

Classroom-based seminars and/or tutorials

Seminars are defined as sessions that provide the opportunity for students to engage in discussion of a particular topic and/or to explore it in more detail than might be covered in a lecture – the extent of interaction will depend on the delivery method.  A typical model would involve a guided, tutor-led discussion in a small group.  However, the term also encompasses student or peer-led classes with a staff member or affiliate present.  Seminars are assumed in general to involve smaller groups of students than lectures, but size will vary depending upon the nature of what is being taught, the size of the overall student cohort, and practical concerns.  Tutorials may be distinguished from seminars for the stronger emphasis that they place on the role of the tutor in giving direction or feedback.

Scheduled online activities

Online versions of lectures, seminars and tutorials, where students are taught virtually rather than face-to-face.  Set online activities that are supported and monitored by members of staff (hours should be counted as the amount of staff time allocated to supporting the activity).

Practical classes and workshops (including laboratory activity)

Examples are wide ranging and could include a laboratory class, clinical and simulation sessions, recital, artefact handling/identification, language conversation and so on.  Practical classes and workshops might incorporate elements of teaching, demonstration or guided learning, and they are at least likely to be supervised or observed.  These sessions are more likely to take place in person but, depending on the nature of the subject, may also be conducted remotely.  The size of a practical class or workshop will depend upon the nature of the activity.  Workshops are likely to involve at least a small group of students but practical classes could take place on a one-to-one basis.

Supervised time in studio/laboratory/workshop

Time in which students work independently but under supervision, in a specialist facility such as a studio or workshop.  Examples might include time spent in an art or design studio, or in a rehearsal space such as a practise room.  It could be timetabled or take place on an ad hoc basis.  Peers as well as staff or affiliates may be involved.  Supervised time in a studio/workshop might involve a group or individual.


Practical work conducted at an external site.  Examples of fieldwork might include survey work and other forms of data collection, excavations and explorations.  The work might be unsupervised or supervised, and supervision could be provided by staff or appointed representatives.  Some fieldwork may be conducted virtually.  Fieldwork might be conducted in groups of various sizes, or by individuals, depending on the nature of the work involved.

External visits

A visit to a location outside of the usual learning spaces, to experience a particular environment, event, or exhibition relevant to the course of study.  Examples are wide ranging and could include a visit to a business or industrial site, built environment site, museum or collection, to attendance at a performance or exhibition.  These visits might be unsupervised or supervised, and supervisors could include staff or appointed representatives.  Site visits may be carried out in groups of varying sizes, or by individuals, depending on the nature of the visit and the location.

Work-based learning

Structured learning that takes place in the workplace.  Work-based learning is a structured academic programme, controlled by the higher or further education institution, and delivered in the workplace by academic staff of the institution, staff of the employer, or both.  Unlike placement activity, which is one element of a course such as a sandwich placement (whether for the whole or part of a year), work-based learning is at the heart of a student’s learning programme and must be subject to the same level of academic supervision and rigour as any other form of assessed learning.  It includes:

  • the imparting of relevant knowledge and skills to students
  • opportunities for students to discuss knowledge and skills with their tutors
  • assessment of students’ acquisition of knowledge and skills by the institution’s academic staff, and perhaps jointly with an employer.

Work-based Learning should be regarded as substituting for learning that under other circumstances would normally take place within the institution.  The inclusion of an element of work-based learning should, therefore, not extend the normal duration of a course.

Learning in the work place or other placements that do not meet the definition of work-based learning given above should be treated as placements for the purposes of the KIS.

Scheduled examination/assessment

Cardiff University Academic Regulations states that a module “shall comprise a minimum of one hundred study hours per ten Credits including associated contact hours, individual study and Assessment” and, therefore, examinations and assessments have been included in the capture of scheduled learning activity.  This is in addition to the data on assessment provided for each module.  It should include the time spent in examinations, class tests, presentations, OSCEs, etc. and also the time spent on project and dissertation supervision, where students would have time with a supervisor to plan, discuss, and monitor progress on a particular piece of work.  Any other aspects of assessed work or assignments should be covered under “Guided Independent Study”.

General Scheduled

This category provides an option for any specific activity that is felt does not fit into any of the other “Scheduled” categories so that this data is not lost.  This category can also be used for modules that don’t specify the detail of their Learning Activities, providing a field that will enable the capture of the basic data requirement for KIS.

Time spent in programme-wide activity, such as Personal Tutorials and non-module specific learning activities, should be captured under this heading.  This time should be allocated proportionally for each module using the following method:

Proportionate module time = Total programme wide time X (module credit size / 120 credits)

Placement Learning Activities


Learning away from the institution that is neither a year abroad nor work based learning.  The term covers any learning, other than years abroad and work-based learning, that takes place through an organised work opportunity, rather than in a university or college setting, and includes managed placements.  Some supervision or monitoring is likely be involved, and may be carried out either by a member of staff or a mentor within the host organisation.  Students might undertake placements individually or in groups, depending on the nature of the workplace and the learning involved.  Teaching placements in medical, nursing and health care programmes should be treated as placements.

Where the total number of hours on placement exceeds 10 hours per credit, the total number of hours should be capped at 10 hours per credit.

Year Abroad

Any study that occurs overseas.  This should include any study that occurs overseas whether for all or part of a year.  Where only part of the year is studied abroad it should be weighted accordingly in determining the scheduled learning activities for the year.

Independent Learning Activities

Guided independent study

Higher education is distinguished from general and secondary education by its focus on independent learning.  Scheduled learning and teaching activities typically feature alongside time in which students are expected to study independently, which may itself be ‘guided’.  Guided independent study might include preparation for scheduled sessions, follow-up work, wider reading, self-directed learning, practice, completion of assessment tasks (including projects and dissertations), revision, etc.

The relative amounts of time that students are expected to spend engaged in scheduled activities and guided independent study varies between courses.  In all cases, students are expected to be responsible for their own learning, with appropriate support being provided by the institution.  Such support can be via a variety of means, including, for example, through the provision of study skills training, feedback on assessed work, access to libraries and learning spaces, language skills training, etc.

Assessment Types and Definitions

Forms of Assessment fall into the following types:

Written Examinations:

Examination: A written Assessment with fixed time-limit of no less than one hour organised by the Superintendent of Examinations in an Examination Venue.  The duration of an Examination shall be specified in multiples of thirty minutes.

Class Test: A written Assessment with fixed time-limit conducted in accordance with Senate Regulations and which is organised by the relevant School outside of an Examination Period.


Written Assessment – A written piece of coursework, including case studies and essays.

Report – A report or reflective journal produced during and/or after participation in an activity such as fieldwork, laboratory work, work experience, placement or project.

Portfolio – An Assessment of a collection of materials/evidence over a period of study over time

Dissertation – A substantial written Assessment that embodies outcomes of a study or an investigation or a research project.

Practical Assessments:

Practical-Based Assessment - An Assessment which assesses how a student undertakes a practical skill, technique or competency, such as a clinical examination, laboratory techniques, language translation, or recital, which is organised by the relevant School.

Oral/Aural Assessment – Assessment, which may include viva-voce examination, that is conducted orally and face-to-face with the assessor(s).

Presentation – Assessment of a presentation which may include presentations, debates, conversations or contributions to seminars.

Contact us

For further information, please contact:
Education Support Team
Registry & Academic Services


Page last updated: 8 December 2015