Grade-Inflation Threatening Credibility Of UK’s University Education


Universities grade-inflation is believed to be threatening the credibility of UK degrees.

Office for Students, England’s higher education watchdog, revealed that 28% students received first-class degrees in year 2018-2019. The number is considered alarming because it threatens to undermine the confidence people, educators and future employers place in the value of a degree.

The figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show, 28% of students received first class degrees, 48% were awarded upper second, 19% candidates managed a lower second and only 4% third class.

Grade-inflation essentially, means that more students are getting first-class degrees with  little effort. The general perception would be that if a university is awarding more first-class degrees, the students must be working relentlessly.

Unfortunately, the reality is a bit different. The universities in case of grade-inflation, as the name suggests, deliberately award top degrees to lure more students. However, the number of first-class degrees and degree credibility are indirectly proportioned.

The alarm was caused when the British think-tank Reform in 2018 said, proportion of first-class degrees has doubled from 1997-2009, and increased by 26 percent since 2010, as reported by the BBC.

According to the Reform Report:

  • More than 40 percent of students at the University of Surrey graduated with a first class degree in 2017.
  • Since 1995 the proportion of 2:1 degrees rose from 40 percent to 49 percent.
  • Seventy-five percent of students achieve one of the top two classifications, compared with 47 percent in the mid-1990s
  • In more than 50 universities, the proportion of first class degrees has doubled since 2010

The rising number of top-scores is worrisome because it shows how degrees are becoming less competitive. However, the British officials have vowed to make universities tackle the ever-increasing grade-inflation, for their own good. According to the BBC report, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “grade inflation was something we had to stop to protect the reputation of the UK’s universities.”

“We will reverse that trend,” he said, “there had to be public confidence in what grades mean”.


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