I have just completed a 13 week group project on an undergraduate Electronic Engineering degree at a UK university. I am already an Electronic Engineer by trade and have been for 5 years since finishing an apprenticeship.

Naturally, the project came easy to me and I worked very hard. Unfortunately, the rest of my team members were underperformers and showed little ability. I took on an uneven load early on, and this only worsened throughout the project.

I was also tasked with the Team Leader role, where I also had to plan the task, write reports & proposals, cover Health & Safety etc. I tried to assign complex tasks to the team members but they were unable/unwilling and I ended up completing most of them.

At the end of the project, all teams were asked to conduct a peer assessment where each member must sign a document stating their contribution. Teams ideally split the marks evenly.

My team members are friends from previous courses and all agree to split the grade. I disagreed as I have done more work. Now, the team has stormed off and left the assessment incomplete.

I have tried to argue the case for my extra marks, by listing all completed tasks throughout the weeks and dividing up the workload. I calculate 50.29% for myself conservatively. However, the team are non-native English speakers and since the argument, have abandoned discussions.

If I do nothing, the university will default to an even split.

Is this a legitimate method of marking the course? The built-in default seems to reward freeloaders and punish hard work. Should I pursue upper management's opinion? I feel utterly betrayed by the system here.

Kind regards,



In response to the "it's your fault" answers, I would like to provide more context. Tasks were assigned to all team members. I assigned myself less tasks than the others for the first 8 weeks, as I work full-time as a Design Engineer and the others are full time students. I used some of my time to review their work, give feedback and rework anything that needed it. I also investigated some separate hardware that could have worked (but didnt). This extra work and uneven split was agreed upon Week 1 when I agreed to be team leader (which I did not want to be).

At week 8 there was a formative assessment where the team had to stand up & present the prototype to the tutor - I was on holiday this week so the other 3 did this without any of my input. It was a tragic failure as the prototype did not work, they didn't fully understand the code and they weren't really sure how it was supposed to work. The tutor was shocked, as all the planning & proposal work had looked so good. After this, the tutor called a team meeting to discuss the problems and I was surprised to hear that the team members felt they did not have enough support from the University to keep up with the project. Basically, the students did not know how to code. All the coding tasks I had assigned to different students weeks before had been done by one of the students, and he did them poorly. This was hidden from me as the original assignee's handed the work back to me, unless they were a week late on the deadline and I would take the work back off them.

For the final 5 weeks, I took on a rapidly increasing workload as my tutor advised me to set the others simpler tasks and that I should take on the complex work. I made this clear to the team and it was agreed. The final 2 weeks I went full-throttle, took time off work and blitzed the project (and finished it).

In this dynamic, the tutor is fully aware that I have been a good team leader as she knows I assign tasks each week, provide a Google Drive for the finished tasks to be uploaded to, provide feedback to tasks and answer questions throughout the week - because we use a social media platform called Edmodo. It's like a facebook for teachers and students. Everything we have done is recorded on Edmodo, every update I post, every link, every comment. Each time I set work - it is recorded! She (tutor) has access to this aswell and sees the interactions. She has praised the team for good teamwork on Edmodo in the past.

  • "I tried to assign complex tasks to the team members but they were unable/unwilling and I ended up completing most of them.": This part seems the most material if there is a legitimate case and could do with some expansion. What do these terms mean here: assign, complex, unwilling? If it's, for example, people agreeing to do things, then disappearing for weeks not participating at all then that's a different situation to one where they struggle or one where they don't have the same idea of what they're doing as you (or, also, to one that results in a 50% split). It's hard to discern currently. Dec 31, 2018 at 22:41
  • Tasks were assigned with specific deadlines (usually one week as we met on mondays) and were almost always missed by two of the team members. Monday would come around, and instead of discussing the completed task and incorporating it into the project, the team members would BEGIN their tasks on Monday. Often, the tasks would not even be completed that day and the knock-on effect was severe. I ended up relieving team members of assigned tasks after 1 week past the deadline so they could pick up new tasks. Usually, the job would have to be completely reworked as the quality was so poor.
    – MIL-SPEC
    Jan 2, 2019 at 9:53

4 Answers 4


You may not like this answer, but I think you should settle for equal grades.

The situation you describe is very common and so are the disputes you have wound up with. The expectation was that all should share equally and you didn't, apparently do that. You basically, rather than being the team leader/manager, took it on yourself to do all of the work. That wasn't necessary, but it is too late now to correct it. What you should have done (sorry) is to work physically together as a team. I suspect that you tried to divide up the work, making the problem bigger since you add the integration task to the work of the parts. It is a formula that has been proven to fail since around 1960, or so.

The instructor may be partly to blame for this if you haven't learned about project management in any modern style (say, agile), but, again, it is too late to go back.

In the real world, this also happens. Someone does more, others do less, or nothing, but the work is the important thing. In the education world, the learning is more important, actually, but not all students or professors recognize that.

So, in building the thing you have been a success. In managing it you have been less of a success. If you have learned something it is worth it.

Yes, the built in system rewards freeloaders, but you should have recognized that from the start and acted so that it didn't work out that way. The milk has been spilt.

I don't, however, disagree with the conclusion here of Vladhagen. Talk to your professor and get an opinion. But you should have done that by mid-term at least.

Never mind that your "partners" may get something that they don't deserve. Think about your own actions and what you have learned as well as what you haven't.

In my view, this project was pretty typical and so the typical grading scheme should apply - same grades for all.

Had someone else been team leader and closed you out, not giving you anything to do, or a way to be a success as a team, then, I think, you'd have a more valid complaint.

Of course, in the peer assessment that you write you can describe the project life as you see it. But your "teammates" will also do so.

  • 3
    This is not an answer I disagree with. For a 13 week project, requesting professorial intervention at week 13 is a wee late. Midterm would have been better. And, again, life is not always going to give you credit for your contribution down to the 100th of a point.
    – Vladhagen
    Dec 19, 2018 at 21:08
  • 1
    Thanks for the reply. I did request intervention at week 8, and was told to give them simpler work which sort of worked but left me with all the technical. My expectations were that grades are a reflection of merit, but clearly not in this project.
    – MIL-SPEC
    Dec 20, 2018 at 1:10
  • "Yes, the built in system rewards freeloaders, but you should have recognized that from the start and acted so that it didn't work out that way. The milk has been spilt." Yes. Yes. Yes.
    – Vladhagen
    Dec 20, 2018 at 20:43
  • 1
    " you should have recognized that from the start and acted so that it didn't work out that way." --- I did. I assigned Research Tasks to the weak team members to build up their knowledge base alongside their project tasks. They failed to complete either so I cut the Research to focus on the actual project. They eventually failed to do the project tasks so I ended up taking those tasks too. Understand that I anticipated this 100%, but now have been ganged up on selfishly.
    – MIL-SPEC
    Jan 2, 2019 at 10:32

50.29% seems like an incredibly specific number. Are you sure it wasn't 50.28%?

If your teammates have left the assignment for you to handle, could you not inform them that you have done the bulk of the work and will be filing the signed grade sheet accordingly unless they return and help? If they are ignoring you, it would seem like you could simply finish the project, take the bulk of the credit, and submit the grade sheet stating what you feel their contributions were. Inform the professor why they never signed the paper (a submission on their behalf, in absentia). If you have email records of your attempts to contact them, it seems like it would be relatively hard for your team to dispute your account.

I am somewhat unfamiliar with the UK grading system here, but it would seem that as long as you received high marks on the project, credit for who exactly did what will be conclusively irrelevant. Get the win and get off the pitch (so to speak). Does it really matter who made the most goals and passes?

If possible, I would show the professor what you have so far and seek his/her opinion. The sooner the better perhaps.

I will add that life rarely will split exactly equitably in terms of work load and recognition. "That's life."

  • That’s the maths, I’d be happy to round it down to 50%. The issue with the paperwork is that without all 4 signatures, it is invalid and defaults to 25% each. The project is finished now, I spent the final 4 days working dusk till dawn whilst the “team” studied for an upcoming exam. In any case, my question “is this bs or par for the course?” has been answered - it’s both!
    – MIL-SPEC
    Dec 20, 2018 at 1:18

I agree with everything written in the other answers and Buffy has given a particularly carefully worded response, however I wanted to add a UK perspective.

UK Engineering degrees are usually accredited by a professional body for admission to the Engineering Council to lead to Chartered Engineer status (this includes EE, CS, and other engineering disciplines). I am a member of such a professional body (as are most UK academics in the field) and am familiar with the accreditation processes from both the professional body and academic department side. During their undergraduate study my experience is that few students have made themselves familiar with the professional aspects of their degree and the requirements of the body that they will join in their later professional life as part of their practise. I am also familiar with the construction of syllabus content and degree programs that lead to appropriate accreditation and the assessment elements they must contain.

An engineering degree will be required to contain group work, not to make things easier for the assessor or to permit larger course cohorts to operate or for economic reasons of lowering the cost of delivering the course, but pedagogically to deliver certain learning outcomes. Achieving those learning outcomes and the degree to which they have been achieved is what determines (or contributes towards) the grade or mark for these courses. Experiencing group interactions is one of the learning outcomes; successful co-operation in a group is one of those learning outcomes. Learning and experiencing what can go wrong is often an implicit learning outcome. Interestingly, making the damn thing (the physical result of the engineering labour) is only a small part of the learning outcome.

Consequently, being the hero and doing the whole thing yourself is exactly NOT what a group project is about and can lead to reduced marks. I have even seen students given totally failing grades for sacking their team and doing it solo. Engineers with these qualities are not the ones that fellow professionals want to work with in their seriously large projects and hence the reasons for marking sanctions for group disputes over contribution. We need engineers that can work together and leave their egos behind.

Later in their degree students will learn more about project management, but it is often necessary for them to experience sink or swim to understand the need for such structured methods.

You would have got short shrift from me if you complained about your mark on one of my assessments!

  • 1
    I am no hero, nor do I want to be. I work full time as a Design Engineer in the Defence Industry and have done for 5 years. I have worked on numerous fast-paced, intensive projects of which this University project pales in comparison. The issue here is not that I did the whole thing myself, stealing their work - it is that I did work that those team members were unwilling/unable to do even though they were assigned that work. They are now trying to claim that I did the same amount of work they did, which is not true.
    – MIL-SPEC
    Jan 2, 2019 at 9:57
  • 1
    -1: I simply do not understand the "group work learning experience" responses. OP did everything to get a successful team work, and, if when that didn't work out, get at least the project saved. An even distribution of marks is fundamentally unfair under these auspices, and "fairness" is supposed to be one of the main criteria in UK-based assessments. It is not a justification to say that since in business the world is unfair, so it may be in academia - academia should be an idealised learning environment where feedback and improvement requirements are particularly transparently delineated. Jan 8, 2019 at 11:25
  • So are your assessments geared to producing groups who can "work together" or "work together AND deliver an effective solution"?
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 8, 2019 at 13:42
  • @SolarMike Good point. I can easily design a group that gets together well and sings "Kumbaya" or plays cards. Without an external criterion, there is nothing to compare with. On the other hand, if OP, good capability, is thrown together with a bunch of layabouts, he will be marked unfairly compared with another one, good capability, put together with hardworking guys. It is inconceivable that the outcome of OP's mark should depend on such a completely random allocation of collaborators when every other aspect of potential unfairness is controlled for in the UK system. Jan 8, 2019 at 17:55

I signed the paperwork today and claimed 40% of the group mark. Here is how I did it:

I generated a spreadsheet with every task the group did and assigned value to each task. There were around 380hours of task value. I assigned each member value for each task, some tasks were done by one person, who claimed all the value. Some were shared, and so all members claimed the value. Some tasks that I finished off or reworked, I claimed a half hour or an hour on as well as the original member claiming time.

Next, I withdrew access to every piece of work I did on the Google Drive I created for the team. 118 pieces of my work disappeared overnight. Now, the team members could not refer to anything I had done for their Logbook - which is 50% of the module grade.

This spreadsheet worked out a split of roughly 50 (me), 25, 13, 12 percent.

I sat and listened without saying a word to their arguments for 30minutes. They said I should help boost their grade, that it looked shameful that we would have such an unbalanced split, and that the tutors would think poorly of us all.

Once the spreadsheet was accepted as the truth (or close to) by the group, I agreed to come down from 50%. They offered me 30% but I said 40% and I will sign now. They agreed in exchange for access to my files again.

You might think I screwed my team over, but you would be wrong. They still take 20% home each, as opposed to 25%. If they knew all they had to do was stall for a week, the uni would have defaulted to 25% split. They would have screwed me over if they knew that. Luckily, they didn’t. Also, the Individual Mark (Logbook, 50% of grade) is a record of individual contribution and so the other team members should not be referencing any of my work. I know they need it, because otherwise their logbooks will be quite empty, but they will be claiming my work as their own!

  • You should not put it as an answer, but as an edit to your question. Jan 8, 2019 at 11:27
  • 2
    Why? This was the solution.
    – MIL-SPEC
    Jan 8, 2019 at 12:19
  • 1
    Plus 1 for being smarter and reading the assessment rules and working the system as compared to the others who did not check out the 25% default. Well done. So, the short solution is "if all else fails, read the instructions"... :)
    – Solar Mike
    Jan 8, 2019 at 13:39
  • @SolarMike: RTFM! :-)
    – Peter K.
    May 21, 2019 at 14:19

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