Recent statistics have revealed that over a quarter of UK Students graduated with a First Class degree from their University, raising several questions. Critics have suggested it shows that University is getting easier, though with tuition fees rising hugely in recent years, others might surmise that students are working harder than ever before. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that 26% of students who graduated from University in the 2016-17 academic year achieved a first. Read on for more.
Many have criticised the University grade classification system as being outdated, with just four possible results in the majority of courses. A First Class degree is awarded to students who achieve a grade at 70% and higher. Students between 60% and 69% achieve an Upper Second Class Honours, with those between 50% and 59% achieving Lower Second Class Honours. Those between 40% and 49% achieve a Third Class, with anyone below 40% failing. Having so few classifications can bunch students together, instead of separating them. A criticism could be that students who finish on 60% and 69% achieve the same classification – despite a clear difference.
As mentioned above, several people have suggested that with 26% of students achieving a First, that University is becoming easier. A First is supposed to be something very difficult to achieve. For example, in the 2012-13 academic year, 18% of students received a First. With so many more students graduating with a top degree, it somewhat devalues a regular degree, which could push more students to completing a Masters degree. Yet a counter-argument would propose that due to how high tuition fees are, that students are working harder than ever before – leading to the rise in top degrees being awarded. There is a pressure on students at University to succeed.
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Whether or not any reform of the Grade classification system will happen soon remains to be seen. However if current trends continue, grades could change sooner rather than later. For comparison, both GCSE’s and A-Levels have had their grade boundaries risen due to concerns over high results. There is no questioning the hard work that goes into achieving a strong result in a degree, though the current system doesn’t appear to be working sufficiently. Finally, considering it is in the interest of a University to award high degrees, these statistics aren’t overly surprising.