UK universities to probe degree awards policies

Universities are to hold a sector-wide inquiry into the increasing number of first-class and upper second-class degrees awarded, following a report that warns of potential damage to the integrity of United Kingdom higher education, writes Richard Adams for The Guardian.

The report led by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education concludes that while it is difficult to pinpoint the causes, perceptions of grade inflation could erode the usefulness of honours degree classes and undermine confidence in academic standards. “The evidence presented in this study is not conclusive evidence of either inflation or improvement,” the report, co-authored by the Universities UK group, concluded. “It is nearly impossible to demonstrate concretely one way or another.”

The report found that improvements in student performance, better teaching and increased efficiency “only explain a certain proportion of the uplift” in degree classes, with around 10 percentage points of the rise in firsts since 2011 unable to be explained. The consultation is to be led by the UK standing committee for quality assessment and will consult on publishing analysis of each institution’s awards policy, the role of external examiners and review the current use of first-, second- and third-class degrees.
Full report on The Guardian site