18:39

Grade inflation

One of the sins of getting older is the moan that it was all better in the past. Most of the time it’s just different - and that applies to tertiary education. When I was at university the ratio of men to women was 80:20: it’s now 40:60 - an extraordinary social change that must have ramifications in the relationships between men and women going forward into the 21st century.


Grade inflation has been the frog in the bath. It has been talked about much and the number of CVs containing first class degrees crossing my desk has certainly increased. How much was hard to gauge. However in 2017, according to The Guardian, for the first time, more degree students graduating from UK universities were awarded first class honours (24%) than lower second class or worse. I can recall only three people I knew at university that got firsts: it was a remarkable achievement - and memorable for that. 


This grade inflation has been slow and insidious. Not so the requirements for universities. In 2015-16 (the latest years for which figures are available) over 51,000 unconditional offers were made - an increase of 40% on the previous year and that was up from only 2,985 in 2013-14. This means that all the pressure is off for A level students, that pressure being an important - vital - educational experience.


It is fashionable to talk about a crisis in tertiary education. These figures suggest that crisis is not too strong a word. It looks like the surrender of all standards which can only be bad for everyone - not least for the poor young people who are being sold an expensive piece of devalued paper.

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