Aren’t the universities becoming efficient!

Universities have been warned over degree class inflation as an analysis reveals that seven in ten students who get less than DDD grades at A-level go on to graduate with top degrees.

Of the 3,025 students who went to university last year after achieving less than DDD, 69 per cent went on to graduate with either a first class or upper second degree.

This is seven per cent higher than the previous year, and a 73 per cent increase since 2010/11, according to a major report published on Thursday by the Office for Students (OfS).

Whaddayamean grade inflation? Mo, it’s the superlative efficiency of the new universities in teaching grievance studies…..

27 thoughts on “Aren’t the universities becoming efficient!”

  1. For my generation, barely 7 per cent of whom attended university (an oft repeated statistic to infer how thick we are), it’s even more galling. Not only did the vast majority of us not get ‘free’ university tuition, we are forced to subsidise for the current shower to the tune of £35k for a typical arts graduate.

  2. The Meissen Bison

    DDD grades at A-Level now correspond to the FFF of yesteryear.

    Bernie G.:(an oft repeated statistic to infer how thick we are)

    An arts graduate suggests you mean ‘imply’ rather than ‘infer’ and the ‘for’ in the penultimate line is redundant.

  3. I think the accountants (ACCA, ICAEW etc.) have the right structure. Their members have oversight of the syllabus and examinations and have a strong incentive not to devalue their own qualification by letting them become too easy.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if their pass rates have remained fairly consistent over the years.

  4. I can’t speak for accountants, but the actuaries in the early 70s were worried that there had been an increase in the numbers of those qualifying (some of whom didn’t have a maths degree), so they increased the rigour of the exams in order to maintain the salaries of those already qualified.

  5. And the beauty of this is that half the population are getting certificates to say that they are really clever, when all they’ve done is accept what they were told.
    Talk about an overproduction of elites!
    And they’ll find it really difficult to give up their sense of superiority, and hence to accept any challenge to what they have been told.

  6. I’m of Bernie G’s generation… Both my (Russell Group) alma maters in the 1960s/70s were distinctly miserly with the allocation of Firsts and Upper Seconds. Less than 1% of graduates received Firsts, occasionally there would be a “Firstless” year. Nowadays they seem to be available with three Cornflake packet tops…

    Hence my contention that the claim that “Remainers” are better educated than “Leavers” is merely a proxy for age. An old git with half-a-dozen decent “O” Levels is probably at least as well, if not better, educated than a recent graduate in Grievance Studies from the “University” of Steeple-Bumstead, despite being dismissed as “uneducated” coz e ain’t gorra degree.

  7. Graduated with a BEng(Hons) in mechanical engineering in 1993. Class of sixty or so made it to the end – I think we had one person get a First (and well deserved it was too, and no it wasn’t me). Later on, of my MSc class, only four of the eight graduated (the others all deferred, wanting more time for their dissertation).

    But then engineering, like most STEM subjects, is much more objective than subjective. You can blarney your way through the environmental, social or political impact of “building a bridge there” – but “bridge stays up? or bridge falls down?” is a hard test not amenable to discussion.

  8. You know why the unis are doing this?
    Devaluing the 2.1 and first degrees means to stand out / get taken seriously people will have to do postgrad qualifications.
    Which brings in more money.

    Its a simple money issue. Not enough postgrads paying for a degree, get more doing them.

  9. Martin,

    It also stops people kicking up a stink.

    The whole thing is based on financial incentives. The universities want money. The students don’t care that much about the courses – the piece of paper is what they want. The state has set bars for degrees for some jobs like policemen, but the bureaucrats checking don’t really care.

    Smart, nimble employers have already adapted. We know that a lot of degrees that vaguely sound like something to do with computing (as opposed to Computer Science) are frequently dogshit, that A level Comp Sci is more rigorous.

  10. In 1987 I was in the top 15% of the population with B/C/C at ‘A’ levels which got me a Scottish Pass at uni.

    I did more in my ‘O’ level Computer Studies in 1986 than I did in my Computing Science degree in 1987-1990. I spent most of my time wondering “when are we going to do some, y’know, *actual* computing stuff?”

  11. Bloke in North Dorset


    “But then engineering, like most STEM subjects, is much more objective than subjective. You can blarney your way through the environmental, social or political impact of “building a bridge there” – but “bridge stays up? or bridge falls down?” is a hard test not amenable to discussion.”

    As one of my lecturers pointed out, anyone can build a bridge that stays up, an engineer is someone who builds a bridge that just stays up. It was a telecoms assignment, I can’t remember what, but he was having a dig at us having used too many safety margins.

  12. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    I graduated in the late 80s with a 2:1, just missing a first. But I managed to sneak in with terrible Alevels and realising how fortunate I was, worked bloody hard.

    The head of department explained at the time, that no matter how much they tinkered with the system, they couldn’t break the grouping of graduates hovering around the 2:1/2:2 border. They wanted a bigger spread that would result in more firsts and allow them to weed out the no hopers earlier to avoid thirds and fails. We still had exams in those days and I think their goal could only be achieved by scrapping them completely and turning to 100% course work evaluation.

  13. Bloke no Longer in Austria


    When I used to be a boss in the 90s and interview candidates, I discovered that computer science graduates, unless they had a particular programming skill, were generally only 6 months ahead of those who could spell “laptop” on the 3rd attempt.

  14. The Meissen Bison

    Richard: At least my Oxford 2:2 is gaining rarity value.

    If you want rarity value you need to go back to when Oxford didn’t split 2nd class honours degrees into two sub-categories and men’s colleges didn’t admit women. In those halcyon days the ultimate distinction was to be awarded a 3rd.

  15. I take it you’re referring to what was called a “Gentleman’s Third”, ideally combined with a Blue for some sport. I didn’t know anyone who got one of those.

    I understand there was also something even rarer: a Fourth. That was for failing to meet the overall standard for attire, but doing brilliantly well on at least one paper. “Clever but didn’t work hard” was how it was summed up to me.

  16. My best friend at Oxford, sadly no longer with us, should have got a third in Maths on his finals results, but was awarded a second because he’d correctly answered a question on a topic he hadn’t even studied. Maths is probably one of the few subjects in which such a thing is possible.

  17. @Bloke no Longer in Austria July 13, 2019 at 2:59 pm


    Degree I did was BSc Business Computing (sandwich, 4yr) – Grad. 1988

    Subjects were various computing languages, Relation DBs SQL, AI, System Design & Analysis, Accounting, Statistics, Business Strategy, Finance and Law… with third year being “work in a firm”*.

    London IT Consultancy I joined took 12 graduates, none studied CS, all had work experience. Two Oxbridge and two from my course.

    * pay wasn’t great, I earned more on Saturday freelancing than 5 days as Cobol & dBase programer at insurance co.

  18. CJ Nerd,

    Other universities use an “Unclassified Pass with Honours” for a similar purpose.

    (You may draw your own conclusions for how I know this)

  19. “Of the 3,025 students who went to university last year after achieving less than DDD, 69 per cent went on to graduate with either a first class or upper second degree”

    I wonder how this compares to those with slightly higher A-level results – BCC or something like that – middle of the road plodders. I suspect the DDDs might be higher.

    There’s, what, half a million students going to university each year? 3,025 who got a DDD are a tiny fraction.

    I wonder if a lot of these – low grades but still went to university – are actually bright students who did badly in A-levels for some reason, then performed up to their ability once at university.

  20. @ TMB
    That is a typo – thirds were common.
    The distinction was to get a 4th, as one of my friends did, so wasn’t allowed to stay on to do a DPhil. He later became a Professor at a younger university

  21. @ CJ Nerd
    “Gentleman’s Third” was mostly a pre-war concept. In my time Blues who looked as if they were going to get a Third were told up sport in their Finals Year. I knew some.
    Yes – some – which means it must have been a significant minority if not a majority of those capable of a second who would a generation earlier have got a “Gentleman’s Third” as while I knew quite a few Blues I didn’t know hundreds,

  22. Bloke no Longer in Austria: as I posted elsewhere, programming is like writing or musicianing, it’s an ability not a skill, if you haven’t been doing it yourself from pure unadulterated enthusiasm for half a decade before going to uni, nothing will “make” you a programmer. Training and education can teach you techniques and give you experience, but nothing can teach you to “be” a programmer, just as nothing can teach you to “be” a writer.

  23. @ jgh
    One of the best programmers I knew had been a Chemical Engineer before converting. He certainly hadn’t done any programming before going to university because computers were rarities owned by Manchester University, ICI, J. Lyons and suchlike. Nearly forty years later my son had a personal computer when he was six and sorted out a local charity’s website as his post-GCSE work experience when he was 15.
    My big sister took up programming several years after I gave up: she was pretty good at it for the last forty-odd years of her life.
    I think that you are mistaken.

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