Grade inflation at UK universities.


In the United Kingdom universities are awarding more and more higher classes of degrees.

A first class degree was the gold star of British education. In ye old days few people were awarded Firsts. Nowadays over 20 per cent of people are given Firsts. Why is this? This maybe partly due to undergraduates being more industrious. In bygone decades someone with any class of degree was more or less guaranteed a white collar job. With 40 per cent of youngsters going to university this is no longer the case. People are more competitive so it could be that undergraduates are more likely to approach their studies with a sense of mission. There are other possible explanations. Universities have been encouraged to see themselves for business for the past 20 years. They get less government funding as such. Much of it comes from fees ; in fact the government pays the fees up front and the students are supposed to pay the government back but I digress. Because undergraduates have to pay they feel they own the dons. They believe they should complain a lot/ Sometimes these complaints are warranted. I may be that universities have raised their game in terms of teaching quality. Previously some academics saw undergraduates as distraction or even and irritant.

Universities strive t attract applicants; Boldly emblazoned on their brochures is the statistic about what percnetage of people acquire Firsts or 2;1 degrees. There is patently a perverse incentive. Universities will be tempted to award undergraduates higher classes of degree than they deserve. This is on order to ne alluring to applicants. Universities will do well in student satisfaction surveys of they inflate grades. There is a blatant conflict of interests. Universities are responsible for maintaining quality of teaching and academic rigour. There is little oversight on this. Universities are also eager to maintain their revenue steal; undergraduates. These two imperatives collide. The commercial one wins every time.

This  is not just a  case of lowering academic standards. The course content can be made easier. In language degrees translating from German to English remains. But some universities have reduced or even removed translating from English to German which is a much trickier task.

*Grade inflation has ruined schooling in the UK. It is not doing so in universities.

There are brainy and hard working people as ever there were. Some people with Firsts certainly merit them richly. Grade inflation is not the whole answer but it is part of the reason why more people are awarded high classes of degree. A first becomes declasse. Degrees are enormously devalued.

This issue needs to be addressed. It is undermining the United Kingdom’s reputation. The United States has undergone this experience because money talks. Exorbitant fees meant that colleges felt obliged to award degrees for shoddy work. Lecturers are instructed to award unduly high grades for substandard work/. This is not to demean current undergraduates. Most of them are good and some are superb as was always the case. The achievements of the best are devalued by high grades being given to mediocre or even bad students;


About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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