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University Grade Inflation Disputed

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25811702

The rise in university degree grades - in which 70% achieved higher than a 2:2 last year - is not caused by grade inflation, claim researchers.

The rise reflects "better prepared" students with better A-level results, says a study from Lancaster University.

Figures last week showed only 25% of students were awarded 2:2s in 2012-13.

The Lancaster study argues that improvements in degree grades are in line with the rising quality of the intake, as shown by A-level grades.

The study from economists at Lancaster University Management School looked at the changes in degree grades in UK universities from 2005-12.

It wanted to establish whether degree grades could be "considered as realistic or involve any level of 'dishonesty'".

So better prepared students or grade inflation as the students are paying to succeed?

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It's amazing how clever this country has become.

What used to be maybe 10% of 5% (0.5%) of kids getting firsts, now this figure is up to around 30% of 50% (15%). Now, if you want to hire a new graduate with a first, you have a choice of over 100,000 rather than just a couple of thousand.

Look how smart we all are! Final salary pensions all round!

Unfortunately most real-world jobs aren't an extension of mock exam papers, allowing one to be better prepared for their job than a previous employee, something which in itself makes the piece of fancy paper next to worthless.

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'The Lancaster study argues that improvements in degree grades are in line with the rising quality of the intake, as shown by A-level grades.'

So inflation begets inflation

Mr Bear! I went to a fairly average to good University in the early 80s (Sussex). Firsts were not common, not common at all! The only ONE I knew, in my circle of duffers, well, I think it was well deserved!

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Mr Bear! I went to a fairly average to good University in the early 80s (Sussex). Firsts were not common, not common at all! The only ONE I knew, in my circle of duffers, well, I think it was well deserved!

I graduated in 1994 from Exeter, and got the only first in my cohort of 130-ish (of students in the three programmes in my school). And I only just scraped it - the maths put me on the borderline, I was viva-ed on my dissertation and talked my way to the upgrade.

In my last full-time year teaching in UK academia (University of Leeds, 2012-13), the third year cohort just on the undergradute programme I taught in had 46 students, of whom nine got firsts, many of them with final year aggregated marks in the high 70s or low 80s. And we were under pressure from the university to award more, because we awarded significantly less than other schools and departments.

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I graduated in 1994 from Exeter, and got the only first in my cohort of 130-ish (of students in the three programmes in my school). And I only just scraped it - the maths put me on the borderline, I was viva-ed on my dissertation and talked my way to the upgrade.

In my last full-time year teaching in UK academia (University of Leeds, 2012-13), the third year cohort just on the undergradute programme I taught in had 46 students, of whom nine got firsts, many of them with final year aggregated marks in the high 70s or low 80s. And we were under pressure from the university to award more, because we awarded significantly less than other schools and departments.

I graduated in 1987 (science subject from a Russell group uni) and 5% of the 100 or so people on my course got a first. Looking up their website I see that the same department gave firsts to around 30% last year. I find it hard to believe that the quality of the intake has risen that much.

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I graduated in 1987 (science subject from a Russell group uni) and 5% of the 100 or so people on my course got a first. Looking up their website I see that the same department gave firsts to around 30% last year. I find it hard to believe that the quality of the intake has risen that much.

Didn't you read the OP?

rising quality of the intake, as shown by A-level grades

If the new students have such better A-level grades I think that proves the case! Doesn't it! Next!

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I graduated in 1994 from Exeter, and got the only first in my cohort of 130-ish (of students in the three programmes in my school). And I only just scraped it - the maths put me on the borderline, I was viva-ed on my dissertation and talked my way to the upgrade.

In my last full-time year teaching in UK academia (University of Leeds, 2012-13), the third year cohort just on the undergradute programme I taught in had 46 students, of whom nine got firsts, many of them with final year aggregated marks in the high 70s or low 80s. And we were under pressure from the university to award more, because we awarded significantly less than other schools and departments.

1) Well done

2) Oh bugger! :o

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Universities definitely adjust grades. There was only one first in my year too. But most of the class were right on the line between 2.2 and 2.1. A few of us were had vivas - and we all became 2.2s! Sorry about that chaps.

Can't say it's ever been relevant to my career. I guess it might be if you want a career in academia, but those that did simply got an MSc (and far fewer people did masters then anyhow).

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Not all degrees are equal; and I'd hope that this topic doesn't descend into a smug 'getting a first class degree is easy these days' type discussion, as this definately isn't true.

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I've just seen someone say well done to his kid for getting a 2.1

Do you find out this early now?

I'm sure it was June before we were told. Mainly cos there were some finals and stuff at the start of the summer.

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Universities definitely adjust grades. There was only one first in my year too. But most of the class were right on the line between 2.2 and 2.1. A few of us were had vivas - and we all became 2.2s! Sorry about that chaps.

Can't say it's ever been relevant to my career. I guess it might be if you want a career in academia, but those that did simply got an MSc (and far fewer people did masters then anyhow).

With everyone getting increased grades the only way to stand out now is with a masters. Great news for the Uni's, but with £27k fees for the undergrad courses there's a risk masters will become the preserve of the rich.

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I've just seen someone say well done to his kid for getting a 2.1

Do you find out this early now?

I'm sure it was June before we were told. Mainly cos there were some finals and stuff at the start of the summer.

Not until June usually.

But it may be that the course has lots of coursework (also an aping of trends at A level along with inflation) and so can roughly calculate that they have a 2:1.

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Mr Bear! I went to a fairly average to good University in the early 80s (Sussex). Firsts were not common, not common at all! The only ONE I knew, in my circle of duffers, well, I think it was well deserved!

I'm at least ten years younger than you Mr Pin, but even then there were only 3 in my year group of around 100 and I was one! How things change.

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I've just seen someone say well done to his kid for getting a 2.1

Do you find out this early now?

I'm sure it was June before we were told. Mainly cos there were some finals and stuff at the start of the summer.

When I did mine at this stage of the 3rd year I'd worked out I'd got a 2:1, barring a catastrophic final semester where I'd have to end up getting marks in the 40% range.

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I've just seen someone say well done to his kid for getting a 2.1

Do you find out this early now?

I'm sure it was June before we were told. Mainly cos there were some finals and stuff at the start of the summer.

I wondered about that as well after reading one of the comments from the BBC story in the original post:

I am a 3rd year Politics and History student at York. People here care a lot about their grades, getting a 2:2 or below even in first year is a bad sign because it makes it difficult to get onto any competitive internships and graduate schemes. In the current job climate it would be silly to coast on a 2:1.

They must be making predictions based on the results that people have got so far. I don't know if results from early years count towards final degree class now; in my day I think the first couple of years were pretty much irrelevant to the final outcome.

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Just got a third, any more than that means you wasted your time at university actually working. Anyway I stand by that a third in physics is better than a first in sociology or some such nonsense.

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Not all degrees are equal; and I'd hope that this topic doesn't descend into a smug 'getting a first class degree is easy these days' type discussion, as this definately isn't true.

Hmmm....

When I did mine at this stage of the 3rd year I'd worked out I'd got a 2:1, barring a catastrophic final semester where I'd have to end up getting marks in the 40% range.

The ways the maths work typically is that the first year's marks don't count at all for the degree classiciation calculation: it's a simple pass/fail year. Then, depending on the institution, either the weighted mean average of years 2 and 3 is then weighted equally to provide the final, overall number that is translated into a degree classification, or the weighting between years 2 and 3 is treated in some different way. At Leeds, your higher mark (of the year 2 and 3 averages) was given a 2/3 weighting and your lower mark a 1/3 weighting. This struck me as dumbing down pure and simple: under that system, if you got an average of 73 in year 2 and 66 in year 3, you'd still end up with a first, because the 2/3 weighting of year 2 would pull your overall mark above the 69.5 threshold. This is despite the fact that year 3 modules are, by the published assessment criteria, supposed to be "harder" (i.e. a deeper level of critical judgment, more reading etc. is required to achieve the same mark in year 3 than it is in year 2).

So if this system is in use at the institution we're talking about, then if the student concerned has already banked a year 2 final mark in the mid-60s or above, (s)he would really have to screw the pooch in order to avoid coming away with a 2:1. I'm speculating that this is the scenario we're talking about.

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There seems to be a disproportionate amount of Professors here, on this site. Am I in the wrong place? :o

This must be the cleverest forum on Earth!

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<br />At my wife's University where she 'did' Law, they prided themselves in the fact that they hadn't given out a First in 20 years. <br /><br />They considered that a First was too close to 'perfection' and that was pretty much unattainable.<br />
<br /><br /><br />

That's another issue with the UK higher education system. Because each institution is autonomous (i.e. there is no independent quality control mechanism or externally determined standards, apart from the external examiner system, which is little more than window dressing), it sets its own assessment criteria, and thus what attainment is necessary for a given classification. There can also be significant difference between departments within an institution. So the definition of a first class degree can vary from one applied by the department your wife studied in to the other end of the spectrum, which basically means slightly above average for the cohort. That is a big part of the reason why employers regard a degree in any given classification from the University of Bolton as meaning something very different to one awarded by the University of Cambridge.

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<br /><br /><br />

That's another issue with the UK higher education system. Because each institution is autonomous (i.e. there is no independent quality control mechanism or externally determined standards, apart from the external examiner system, which is little more than window dressing), it sets its own assessment criteria, and thus what attainment is necessary for a given classification. There can also be significant difference between departments within an institution. So the definition of a first class degree can vary from one applied by the department your wife studied in to the other end of the spectrum, which basically means slightly above average for the cohort. That is a big part of the reason why employers regard a degree in any given classification from the University of Bolton as meaning something very different to one awarded by the University of Cambridge.

This was the benefit of the old Polytechnics. The degrees were monitored by the CNAA. Now these new Universities can print their own.

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Hmmm....

The ways the maths work typically is that the first year's marks don't count at all for the degree classiciation calculation: it's a simple pass/fail year. Then, depending on the institution, either the weighted mean average of years 2 and 3 is then weighted equally to provide the final, overall number that is translated into a degree classification, or the weighting between years 2 and 3 is treated in some different way. At Leeds, your higher mark (of the year 2 and 3 averages) was given a 2/3 weighting and your lower mark a 1/3 weighting. This struck me as dumbing down pure and simple: under that system, if you got an average of 73 in year 2 and 66 in year 3, you'd still end up with a first, because the 2/3 weighting of year 2 would pull your overall mark above the 69.5 threshold. This is despite the fact that year 3 modules are, by the published assessment criteria, supposed to be "harder" (i.e. a deeper level of critical judgment, more reading etc. is required to achieve the same mark in year 3 than it is in year 2).

So if this system is in use at the institution we're talking about, then if the student concerned has already banked a year 2 final mark in the mid-60s or above, (s)he would really have to screw the pooch in order to avoid coming away with a 2:1. I'm speculating that this is the scenario we're talking about.

That's just crazy, when I did mine in the late 90's the 3rd year marks where the 2/3 weighted. In theory by the 3rd year you should know what's required and your marks should be improving. Sounds like a toss off, the only saving grace would be if the 2nd/3rd were equally rigorous but I'm guessing that's not the case.

Out of interest on this front do the students who've got higher 2nd year marks struggle more at Masters level?

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This was the benefit of the old Polytechnics. The degrees were monitored by the CNAA. Now these new Universities can print their own.

I doubt the elite University's would ever agree to that, imagine Leeds Met awarding the same quality of degree that Oxford or Cambridge award.

I have always wondered if you tooe a student from an ex poly Uni would they do just as well at either Oxford or Cambridge? I'd suggest they would, especially when you consider some of the inept elites who get in at these two because of money and bumble along to 3rds.

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That's just crazy, when I did mine in the late 90's the 3rd year marks where the 2/3 weighted. In theory by the 3rd year you should know what's required and your marks should be improving. Sounds like a toss off, the only saving grace would be if the 2nd/3rd were equally rigorous but I'm guessing that's not the case.

Out of interest on this front do the students who've got higher 2nd year marks struggle more at Masters level?

The Leeds case sounds like an outlier of what most unis do.

Where I am the final year trumps year two result. Final year is worth 75% of degree and in borderline cases the more recent marks take precedence. Still needs a computer to work it out though. I.e. a 73 in year 2 would be worth less than 73 in year 3.

One fudge is that pure marks can be 'overridden' by 'preponderances'.

I.e. if you have a majority of module marks that are 70, and yet your mean is 68, you still get a First.

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