The Guardian is reporting that the government has announced plans to crack down on grade inflation in universities amid fears that the growing number of first-class degrees being awarded to students is undermining their value.
More than a quarter of graduates (26%) were awarded a first-class degree last year, up from 18% in 2012-13, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
In order to curb the trend, experts who assess higher education providers for the government’s university ratings system will be asked to look at the percentage of firsts and 2:1s awarded by each institution. If judged excessive, the university could be downgraded.
Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) panellists, who are made up of academics, students and higher education experts, will be asked to look at grade inflation as an additional criteria when making their assessment of each university.
There will be no set targets but assessors will be asked to review the number of firsts and 2:1s each university has awarded over recent years and decide whether there has been unacceptable grade inflation. If so, the university might be downgraded from a gold to silver rating.
The universities minister, Sam Gyimah, said: “When you look at what makes our universities so prestigious, it comes down to the value of our degrees. The value of those degrees is threatened by grade inflation and that is a problem for students, employers and the universities themselves.”
In the 2006-7 academic year at the University of Wolverhampton 175 students (5% of the total) were awarded first-class degrees. In 2016-17, 973 students (28% of the total) were awarded firsts.
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