Nearly a third of students set to get first class degrees this year

Almost a third of students are heading for a first-class degree this year as fears grow over university grade inflation

  • Survey showed 54 per cent of students are expecting a 2:1 and no one will fail 
  • Number of firsts has risen after universities increased fees to £9k a year in 2012 
  • Some academics say a first is no longer worth anything and call for new system 

Nearly a third of students will graduate with a first class degree this summer as academics fear top grades are becoming meaningless.

Thirty per cent of students taking their final exams in the coming months are on course for a first, with 54 per cent expecting a 2:1, according to a new poll. 

The same survey revealed no one asked believed they were going to fail.

More students have been getting firsts since universities almost tripled their fees in 2012.

After fees shot up to £9,000 a year, 26 per cent of students were awarded a first last year, compared with 15 per cent in 2012 and just eight per cent in 1995.

Nearly a third of students will graduate with a first class degree this summer, a survey has revealed. File image used 

With so many top degrees being handed out, some academics fear they are now worth less and want a higher grade to be introduced to distinguish the best performers.

Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University told The Times: ‘A first no longer sufficiently distinguishes the outstandingly able. Introducing a ‘starred first’ would help to identify the best of the best.

‘GCSEs and A levels introduced an A* so there is a precedent and employers would understand it.

Professor Smithers added: ‘If the inexorable rise continues, an undergraduate degree may no longer be enough, and ambitious students will have to take postgraduate degrees to set themselves apart.’

The recent survey, commissioned by mystudenthalls.com found that 16 per cent of students were expecting to get a 2:2 and and fewer than one per cent were on track for a third.

Their estimates are likely to be accurate as most university courses are weighted evenly throughout their degrees, meaning students can predict final grades easily. 

Statistics from the last academic year 2016/17 mirrored concerns about too many firsts, revealing 50 universities handed out a 2:1 or a first to 80 per cent of its students.

With so many top degrees being handed out, some academics fear they are now worth less and want a higher grade to be introduced to distinguish the best performers. File image used

At 10 universities the top two grades were given to 90 per cent of graduates.  

Oxford awarded 93.8 per cent of students the top two levels, with Cambridge at 91.6 per cent, Imperial College London at 91.5 per cent, University College London at 91 per cent and Durham University at 90.8 per cent. 

Oxford does sometimes offer ‘congratulatory firsts’ to exceptional first class degree holders, but these are only given to a very select few.

York University also has a similar system and uses starred firsts.  

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