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Upward Trend Proportion of First-Class Honours Rising in England

Sharp Rise in First-Class Degrees, Unexplained Reasons

A recent study reveals a significant increase in the number of students graduating with first-class honours in England. Over the past eight years, the proportion of first-class degrees awarded has surged by nearly 90%, with four out of five graduates now leaving university with either a first or a 2:1 classification.

While the rate of increase has slowed down recently, the Office for Students (OfS), England’s higher education regulator, expresses concern. They view the ongoing trend of grade inflation as a “pressing issue” that could damage public trust in the education system.

Government Calls for Action

The government has repeatedly urged universities to address grade inflation. Data shows a clear rise in First-Class Honours, jumping from 16% in 2010-11 to 30% in 2018-19. Similarly, the proportion of students achieving a first or a 2:1 has climbed from 67% to 79% during the same period.

The Department for Education emphasizes the importance of maintaining high standards and preventing the devaluation of degrees. They urge the OfS to intervene when necessary to ensure responsible awarding practices.

First-Class Honours

Unexplained Increases and Institutional Variations

The OfS acknowledges that factors like improved teaching methods might contribute to some of the observed rise. However, a significant portion remains unexplained. In 2019, for example, nearly half of the First-Class Honours awarded could not be solely attributed to changes in the student population.

The study also highlights variations among universities. Some prestigious institutions like Imperial College London and University College London awarded firsts to over 40% of their graduates. Additionally, universities like Anglia Ruskin, Bradford, and Kingston witnessed dramatic increases in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded.

Universities Taking Action

Universities UK, representing universities across the UK, First-Class Honours acknowledges the issue and highlights efforts to address it. This year, they agreed on a set of principles for designing degree classification algorithms and expressed commitment to tackling grade inflation. Their focus lies on ensuring transparency, fairness, and reliability in degree awarding practices.

By Amishajhon

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