Schools Training

Grade inflation? Maybe students are just working harder

22 JAN 2014

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Statistics recently released across all British universities show that, over the past decade, the proportion of students gaining a first class degree has nearly doubled, from 11% in 2003-4 to 19% in 2012-13. The proportion of students attaining a 2.1 has also increased. Research at Lancaster University’s School of Management argues that this simply reflects the rising quality of A-level students. Others have suggested that this may be evidence of “dishonesty”, as universities chase league table recognition. Who is right?

The dishonesty argument hinges on university autonomy; a university that has degree awarding powers sets its own standards and could, in theory, manipulate them. In practice, though, there is a long-developed system of checks and balances that set levels of parity across broad networks of universities.

The external examination system is central to this. A broad range of external accrediting bodies, mostly for the professions, impose specific sets of requirements. And the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) audits every university on a regular basis, looking in particular at the ways in which appropriate standards are implemented.

Every university that I know takes these assurance systems very seriously; in my university, I read every external examiner report for all our academic programmes. No system is perfect. But the argument that universities are dishonestly manipulating results is both lazy and ill-informed.


Read full article:  The Guardian