Photo: WMG Warwick / Flickr

Degrees too easy? Universities could face regulations on courses

Universities could face tougher measures from the university watchdog regarding degree course standards.

This news comes as concerns are being raised by Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham that universities may be inflating their grades to improve their positions on league tables.

Since universities are in charge of their own grading, concerns have arisen regarding the consistency of grading across universities, an issue that the university watchdog intends to approach.

As previously reported by the Boar, at Warwick 24 percent of students graduating in 2014 did so with a first and 51 percent achieved a 2:1. This compares to national figures of 20 percent graduating with a first and 70 percent with a 2:1 or above, causing concerns regarding grade inflation.

These figures reflect a fourfold increase on the number of first class degrees awarded 15 years ago.

Furthermore, research has suggested that one in six universities award more firsts and 2:1s than would be expected of their students’ profiles.

Some universities feel concerned that this increase in firsts and 2:1s is due to high standards of teaching, rather than a desire to improve their league table status.

Peter Dunn, director of press and policy at the University said: “Warwick concentrates on ensuring excellence in our core missions of research and teaching and relies on that to drive our performance in league tables.”

This alleged inflation of degree standards is said to have raised issues in graduate employment. As increasing numbers of students achieve firsts and 2:1s, it is becoming more and more difficult for employers to distinguish between potential employees.

Employers are said to be looking at other means of discovering the most employable graduates. For example, they are setting their own tests and paying more attention to the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), an online certificate to supplement the degree classification with details of academic and extra-curricular achievements.

Mina Manik, a first-year History and politics undergraduate, said: “I hope that what I achieve reflects wholly on my ability.

“This shift from education to business by the universities takes away the real essence of learning and working towards a degree and is a worrying trend.”

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