Concerns?

Russell Group university awards firsts to more than half of degrees for first time amid grade inflation concerns

The phrase being struggled for there is amid grade inflation evidence

21 thoughts on “Concerns?”

  1. Since we’re talking of Imperial, I suppose it’s possible this has something to do with mining China and India for their best and brightest.

  2. I recall the defence of grade inflation of ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels of “pupils working so hard these days and dedicated teachers yadda yadda”

    As if there were no dedicated teachers or hard working pupils until Labour took office in ’97 as before that there was no grade inflation.

  3. Universities have gone from being purveyors of education to peddlers of qualifications.

    Higher education is a racket.

  4. Bloody Hell..!! No wonder we old “leavers” were considered to be uneducated. I have two degrees, both from Russell Group universities and I seem to remember that, some 45 – 50 years ago, only a handful of Firsts was awarded each year and we were wildly excited to get a 2:1 and moderately happy with a “Desmond”…

    We really must have been thick in those days!

  5. At the University of Cape Town, I got a Desmond overall in my LLB finals (quite a while ago) and was also placed on the Dean’s Merit List for being in the top 10% of the class. There weren’t a lot of firsts. I don’t know what happens today, but judging by the quality of lawyer coming out of the unis, they aren’t any brighter than we were.

  6. I suppose ti depends if they are using normalisation both within and across graduation years and courses

    For example is a Desmond in English of similar academic rigour to one in Engineering?

    AIUI there have to be published assessment/marking policies, I would assume these can be games by staff and students to achieve higher grades

    Is there any external moderation?

  7. Until recently I was a lecturer at a Russell Group University. We openly spoke about having to award more Firsts all the time. And we did it. This was for two reasons. The obvious reason was that if one of your competitors was known to be more generous than you, they would get more of the best students than you. The less well-known, but equally important (perhaps even more important) reason was league tables. The more Firsts you gave out, the higher you got on the league tables. This is because you were regarded as doing better on the key metric of improving a student’s grade.

  8. The year I graduated BSc, my Russell Group alma awarded its first ever first in the programme I was taking. Not to me.

  9. All must have prizes.

    As Syndrome said in the “Incredibles” film (of his plan to sell tech to make everyone superhuman ) “then everybody will be special–and no one will be”.

  10. “When evry-one is some-bod-ee, the noone’s any bod-ee”… Gilbert & Sulivan, “The Gondoliers” (I think).

  11. @Mr Ecks

    A theme in The Incredibles..

    Helen – everyone’s special, Dash.

    Dash – that’s just another way of saying no one’s special.

  12. Things are now at such a pass that the only UK universities worth applying to are the ones which it is jolly hard to get into because it is not the degree at the end which counts for employers as a useful qualification so much as the toughness of the admissions process.

    Once those institutions lower the admission standards to allow for ‘disadvantaged’ school leavers to gain admission (complete with induction courses to help them catch up), then even their graduates will just be perceived to belong to the general mediocre herd.

    I doubt this is a service that will command, for a three year course, £27k of tuition costs plus accommodation and living expenses plus forfeited wages for very much longer.

  13. I doubt this is a service that will command, for a three year course, £27k of tuition costs plus accommodation and living expenses plus forfeited wages for very much longer.

    You say that but if the US is anything to go by, people will take out loans for >$100k for this exact service. God knows why…

  14. Usually with inflation you pay more for the same product. The University system, however, has managed to make students pay vastly more for an end product worth much less than that provided ten or twenty years ago.

    If they were regulated at a level even a tenth of what financial services are they would be fined to oblivion for mid-selling and fraud.

  15. Starfish wrote:
    >I suppose ti depends if they are using normalisation both within and across graduation years and courses
    >For example is a Desmond in English of similar academic rigour to one in Engineering?

    There is no normalisation across departments, and a third in Engineering is generally worth far more than a third in English (the latter means you are barely sentient). But there is little chance of this improving, because either you relax standards in Engineering (which may happen, but is not what we want), or you start failing more people in English, and turning 2:2s into 3rds (which should happen, but won’t).

    >AIUI there have to be published assessment/marking policies, I would assume these can be games by staff and students to achieve higher grades

    These days there are reams and reams of guff about assessment and marking policies, but they don’t mean that much. It’s not so much that they can be gamed, it’s more that there’s inevitably going to be a large subjective element to it. ‘Shows excellent understanding’, ‘Shows moderate understanding’, etc. What counts as excellent understanding in topic A? What counts as poor understanding in topic B? You can’t pin these down with general marking guidelines.

    >Is there any external moderation?

    Yes, but as the external moderators all come from the other Universities which also have grade inflation they’re no help with that. They’re a help with internal moderation and getting consistency across modules, but they’re more likely to recommend grade inflation than discourage it. Seriously, I’ve heard quite a few externals say ‘You have to raise your marks overall or you’ll be left behind’.

  16. In my youth Oxford gave 1sts to 1 in 6 of maths undergraduates*, who tended to be brighter than average ‘cos ability to do sums is obvious at an early age so we get overlooked less often than kids who are good at more obscure subjects.
    This isn’t grade inflation – it’s debasement of the (academic) currency.
    Before you ask: not including me (although I got more marks than the bottom dozen or so firsts) ‘cos I screwed up the Geometry paper

  17. imo the only way to maintain consistency of “brightest & best” receive Firsts, As etc is distribute grades on a bell curve

    This was how NI 11+ pass was awarded in my childhood

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    The higher order effect is that employers no longer having a sorting mechanism to decide the potential, and value of university graduates. At the extreme this could mean the not very good 1st getting employed to design nuclear reactors whilst the brilliant 1st goes unemployed or languishing in a dead end job.

  19. Other than at the extreme (per BiND above) – if the grades mean less, across the board, the reputation of the institution increases in importance to counter.

    And, if recruiting, set brief relevant tests, I’ve always tried to do that. Because, in practical terms, grade inflation (which you can usually discount for in your head in two seconds roughly based on age) isn’t anything like as significant as people simply making up shit on their CVs.

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