University grade inflation - is our degree classification system just a joke now? Watch

anonymous1231231
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I quite appreciate the whole 1st, 2.1, 2.2, etc. system. But it’s so obvious that nearly everyone gets at least a 2.1, and that quite a few universities ‘round’ up percentages. My best friend’s cousin was I believe 3% off a 2.1, and somehow talked her way to it. Perhaps a quota would be good, but that still has cons.
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nexttime
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(Original post by kjnkjnlknjlmklnm)
I strongly agree with what you're saying. Came from an awful home so university applications were messed up due to failing gcses the year before, got A*A*A*A* and went to a university where average grades are probably AAA, tried to keep a positive outlook cause I was a bit peed off I could have been somewhere better. I can average about 90 here and it's downright depressing knowing the only thing I'll graduate with is a "first" along with half the class (not exaggerating in my subject), to be brutally honest this isn't something I'd be proud of. My friend got an offer from oxford and turned it down, he has averaged 85ish here and has a similar complaint. Basically, if you go to a worse uni than you would normally have gone to there is literally no way to distinguish yourself or make up for it.

What really needs to be done is introduce standardised exams at the end and everyone gets a number grade. "1" means you scored in the top 1 percent, "2" means top 2 percent etc. Completely stops grade inflation and gives people a second chance if they under performed at A level to distinguish themselves. Now I know someone will say about option modules, and that isn't a problem. Make the standardised exam count for 50% and then weight scores on the option modules by how well everyone at the university performed on the standardised exam, completely gets rid of this stupid argument.

Rant over.
The national exam idea. Its a good one with lots of advantages - medicine is actually implementing this right now, to start in 2022.

Problem is, it is quite against the current educational culture, and would be seen as quite 'draconian' i think. The current thought is that if one uni has some experts in one special area that area should be able to be represented in exams. To enable that on a national level you'd be looking at unis having to offer hundreds, potentially thousands of options within each course, it could be insane, with quality control being no better. So you'd inevitably have to limit options.

I think maybe there is a compromise here though: First year, and maybe even second year, is standardised across the country (with a few options of course), then second/third year is back down to individual unis? The final grade is awarded by the university. However, the distribution of final grades awarded must be proportional to how the uni as a whole did in the first part? So a uni whose students do very badly in part 1 can only award say 10% firsts, whereas a uni that does outstandingly well can award up to say 50%? What do you think?
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searching123job
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True

Universities have their own methods of grading but it is a shame

At my university, you had to hit the minimum mark to get the classification. No nonsense rounding up or excluding your worst module results and other sorts of madnesses
(Original post by Sinnoh)
I remember seeing a post on here about dodgy rounding practices that allowed people who had very obviously missed the boundary for a first get a first.
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searching123job
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Ridiculous. That person got a 2:1, so should be awarded a 2:1

Actually, we do not know how much this person has been negotiating their marks throughout their degree - perhaps they did some more of this percentage grabbing in 1st and 2nd year. Perhaps they actually got a 2:2 or worse
(Original post by anonymous1231231)
I quite appreciate the whole 1st, 2.1, 2.2, etc. system. But it’s so obvious that nearly everyone gets at least a 2.1, and that quite a few universities ‘round’ up percentages. My best friend’s cousin was I believe 3% off a 2.1, and somehow talked her way to it. Perhaps a quota would be good, but that still has cons.
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JohanGRK
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The only way to solve this completely is to have govt mandated curricula that are marked centrally
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nexttime
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(Original post by JohanGRK)
The only way to solve this completely is to have govt mandated curricula that are marked centrally
Or government mandated quotas on marks allowed to be rewarded based on some variable, most likely performance in a national exam taken at the end of first year.
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kjnkjnlknjlmklnm
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(Original post by nexttime)
The national exam idea. Its a good one with lots of advantages - medicine is actually implementing this right now, to start in 2022.

Problem is, it is quite against the current educational culture, and would be seen as quite 'draconian' i think. The current thought is that if one uni has some experts in one special area that area should be able to be represented in exams. To enable that on a national level you'd be looking at unis having to offer hundreds, potentially thousands of options within each course, it could be insane, with quality control being no better. So you'd inevitably have to limit options.

I think maybe there is a compromise here though: First year, and maybe even second year, is standardised across the country (with a few options of course), then second/third year is back down to individual unis? The final grade is awarded by the university. However, the distribution of final grades awarded must be proportional to how the uni as a whole did in the first part? So a uni whose students do very badly in part 1 can only award say 10% firsts, whereas a uni that does outstandingly well can award up to say 50%? What do you think?
For medicine especially it seems like a fantastic idea. And yeah, unfrotunately I'm sure it would be seen as "draconian" just as everything which raises standards lol. I don't see how options would be limited if you did what you suggested in the final paragraph though.

As to your final paragraph, this was basically I was just trying to say but I think I got it across very poorly. Have a universal component taken everywhere and use a universities performance on that to weight the options. Actually your idea is much better than what I said (half standardised half options in 3rd year) cause if only 50% of a year was the standardised component you just know universities would start gaming it focusing 90% on the standardised test 10% on options so overall people do better. No way of gaming a whole universal year.

It would sort out so many issues overnight, genuinely wouldn't matter much which university you went to, unis would be pressured to deliver their moneys worth, stop grade inflation. But lets be real we know it's never going to happen :mad:.
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king axolotl
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I don’t know about quotas across all grades, but maybe there should be a quota for the number of firsts i.e everything above 60 is a 2:1, top 25% of 2:1s get a first? I don’t know, seeming as nowadays the expectation is that you get a 2:1. I again don’t think it’d be fair to make many changes due to the differences between universities. Maybe class ranks could be looked at? Arghh it’s so hard.
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nexttime
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(Original post by kjnkjnlknjlmklnm)
It would sort out so many issues overnight, genuinely wouldn't matter much which university you went to, unis would be pressured to deliver their moneys worth, stop grade inflation. But lets be real we know it's never going to happen :mad:.
I think this is actually a great idea. Opinion. Formed.
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searching123job
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Especially with appalling grammar like that

Standards have been falling
(Original post by Themysticalegg)
I knew there was no way someone like me should of got a 1st!
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nexttime
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(Original post by king axolotl)
I don’t know about quotas across all grades, but maybe there should be a quota for the number of firsts i.e everything above 60 is a 2:1, top 25% of 2:1s get a first? I don’t know, seeming as nowadays the expectation is that you get a 2:1. I again don’t think it’d be fair to make many changes due to the differences between universities. Maybe class ranks could be looked at? Arghh it’s so hard.
What do you think about the latest idea floated: That you have an initial nationalised exam - say at the end of first year, then dependent on the year group's performance in that the university is allowed to award x 1sts, y 2.1s etc, for the final grade. So the worst performing unis would only be allowed to award say 10% 1sts, and the best get say 50%.

The individual would also graduate with their grade in the national exam, of course.
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kjnkjnlknjlmklnm
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(Original post by nexttime)
What do you think about the latest idea floated: That you have an initial nationalised exam - say at the end of first year, then dependent on the year group's performance in that the university is allowed to award x 1sts, y 2.1s etc, for the final grade. The individual would also graduate with their grade in the national exam, of course.
One thing I should have mentioned, I don't think this theoretical exam should be done at the end of first year do it at the end of 2nd instead.

When people first enter there are a whole range of issues which could lead to unfair disadvantage (awful school or family issues being the 2 obvious ones) or advantage (top private school or different a levels e.g. I did further maths which def helped on my physics degree, most people didn't). Put the exam back to the end of 2nd year and these factors won't be having much of an affect.
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nexttime
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(Original post by kjnkjnlknjlmklnm)
One thing I should have mentioned, I don't think this theoretical exam should be done at the end of first year do it at the end of 2nd instead.

When people first enter there are a whole range of issues which could lead to unfair disadvantage (awful school or family issues being the 2 obvious ones) or advantage (top private school or different a levels e.g. I did further maths which def helped on my physics degree, most people didn't). Put the exam back to the end of 2nd year and these factors won't be having much of an affect.
True good points, but I'm worried that that'll be knocking too much of the 'individuality' out of the current system. My motivation to think this it three-fold:
1) I actually do believe there is benefit to academia being independent and a bit varied - doing new and wacky things is where our best ideas come from, and its best to not totally crush that notion, even if very little genuinely new research comes from undergraduate level these days,
2) It fits fairly ncely into what tends to naturally happen - standardised first years followed by the beginning of options in second - definitely true of the structures of many existing degrees, and
3) the idea is more likely to be accepted if it upsets the status-quo less

Mid way through 2nd year is an option I originally thought might be best - keep summer a bit freer, but I backed down to the end of first because of points 2) and 3).

I do particularly like the point about recruiting from under-performing schools though - you don't want unis to be put off from recruiting from those.
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kjnkjnlknjlmklnm
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Ah fair point about the options. Perhaps the 2nd year could wholly be assessed through a standardised test while retaining options though. Compulsory attendance for options with a basic "pass or fail" test which doesn't affect the standardised mark, and a pass is something which is everyone can get if they turn up and put a tiny bit of effort in. People would take options out of genuine enjoyment and not have their enthusiasm crushed by slaving for the exams , unis couldn't game the system, weak students could simply focus on the exam and strong students who are guaranteed a good mark can choose to go in depth with their spare time.
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PTMalewski
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(Original post by nexttime)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48951653

So in the last 10 years, the number of 1sts has shot up 80%

The University of Surrey now gives out 1sts to 47% of its students.

Other massive increases were seen. To name and shame:
  • Imperial College London from 31% to 46%
  • University of Huddersfield: 15% to 40%
  • University College London: 24% to 40%
  • Durham University: 18% to 38%
  • University of East Anglia: 14% to 39%
  • University of Northumbria: 16% to 35%
  • University of West London: 13% to 34%
  • Staffordshire University: 14% to 34%


Universities have every incentive to inflate their grades as it can lead to a better reputation and more applicants. This is further emphasised by the new government initiatives to get unis to compete for applicants - the same incentives underlying the explosion in unconditional offers. They want unis to compete, and unis are competing.

My question for you is: How can we trust any of these grades any more? There are still vast numbers of employers out there who just ask for a 2.1 no conditions. If unis are just handing out grades to improve their image... is our job industry in trouble? Will employers have to start resorting to other means of selection?

Are our degrees worth the paper they are written on?
Who knows. Maybe students got more capable because they have better access to food, and mental health cures?
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squeakysquirrel
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(Original post by nexttime)
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48951653

So in the last 10 years, the number of 1sts has shot up 80%

The University of Surrey now gives out 1sts to 47% of its students.

Other massive increases were seen. To name and shame:
  • Imperial College London from 31% to 46%
  • University of Huddersfield: 15% to 40%
  • University College London: 24% to 40%
  • Durham University: 18% to 38%
  • University of East Anglia: 14% to 39%
  • University of Northumbria: 16% to 35%
  • University of West London: 13% to 34%
  • Staffordshire University: 14% to 34%


Universities have every incentive to inflate their grades as it can lead to a better reputation and more applicants. This is further emphasised by the new government initiatives to get unis to compete for applicants - the same incentives underlying the explosion in unconditional offers. They want unis to compete, and unis are competing.

My question for you is: How can we trust any of these grades any more? There are still vast numbers of employers out there who just ask for a 2.1 no conditions. If unis are just handing out grades to improve their image... is our job industry in trouble? Will employers have to start resorting to other means of selection?

Are our degrees worth the paper they are written on?
Well I learned a new term this morning - on TSR - the higher education bubble. Where kids just postpone work by doing meaningless degrees and incurring debt so they end up working at Costa Coffee with a masters degree in a Mickey Mouse subject
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searching123job
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Thought this comment may seem amusing, it is actually frighteningly accurate, for some people at least
(Original post by squeakysquirrel)
Well I learned a new term this morning - on TSR - the higher education bubble. Where kids just postpone work by doing meaningless degrees and incurring debt so they end up working at Costa Coffee with a masters degree in a Mickey Mouse subject
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squeakysquirrel
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(Original post by searching123job)
Thought this comment may seem amusing, it is actually frighteningly accurate, for some people at least
Yep look it up wikipedia
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NotNotBatman
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Fantastic news!
Every year there has been pressure to increase teaching standards and to better facilitate those studying for degrees. The methods have worked and we are grading on quality of work, not a bell curve as far as I'm aware. What's there to complain about?
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Student-95
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(Original post by NotNotBatman)
Fantastic news!
Every year there has been pressure to increase teaching standards and to better facilitate those studying for degrees. The methods have worked and we are grading on quality of work, not a bell curve as far as I'm aware. What's there to complain about?
I agree with this. People are better, teaching is better, resources are better. Some will say 'Where's muh distinction?' but that comes from work experience and extra curriculars - gaining evidence of skills that make you valuable.
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