UK government to tackle grade inflation in universities

Gabija Gataveckaite

UK universities are at risk of being downgraded in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) ratings system.

The UK government has announced plans to tackle grade inflation after an unprecedented rise in first class degrees in the last decade.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 26% of graduates were awarded a first class degree, a number which doubled from 18% in 2012-2013.

The University of Wolverhampton in England, saw its students receive five times as many firsts in 2016-2017 compared to the 2006-2007 academic year.

As a result, UK universities are now at risk of being downgraded in the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) ratings system, which awards either a gold, silver or bronze mark. The experts evaluating universities in the TEF system will now examine the amount of first class and second class degrees as part of the investigation.

Emily Dellow, who graduated from the University of Sussex earlier this year, told The College View that she has not seen ‘anything of the like’.

“As of the grade inflation, I don’t recall seeing anything of the like, however I was not privy to the grading process. Some lecturers or markers were more stringent than others in how they marked, but personal bias is always somewhat present,” she said.

In regards to the grading system, Dellow explained that “the nomenclature was a bit confusing at first”.

“No one actually says a 1:1, it is always a first, so why is a second class [degree] subdivided when others aren’t?”

“Marking grids were present for all assignments so you could see where you lost or gained marks, for example clarity of argument, grammar or structure,” she added.

Dellow’s sister Georgia is a third-year physics student at DCU. She believes that the UK third-level education system is far more challenging than the Irish system.

“Students have to go through personal statements, references and predicted grades just to get accepted into a university. From there, they get a conditional offer where they have to get the grades desired to get into a course,” she explained.

“For me, to get into the physics degree that I wanted I would need to get an A1 in higher level maths and higher level physics; whereas in Ireland, I needed a D3 in higher level maths and a C3 in higher level physics.”

“In my own experience, the UK government put such a high standard to just get into their universities that there is no need to regulate their results and the 26% rise could just be down to the level at which their lecturers teach and the intelligence of their students. To do otherwise, puts the hard work that their students do to waste, in my opinion,” she concluded.


Gabija Gataveckaite

Image Credit: Wikipedia