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Gavin Williamson vows to end grade inflation to stop first class degrees being ‘devalued’

University grade inflation will be stamped out to end the devaluation of first class degrees, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday.

More than one in four undergraduates (28.4 per cent) achieved the top honour last year. 

This is double the percentage who gained a first in 2008/09 (14 per cent), and up slightly on 2017/18 (27.8 per cent).

Critics say universities are watering down standards to keep students happy and artificially boost their position on league tables. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said grade inflation threatened to ¿undermine the international reputation¿ of British universities [File photo]

Critics say universities are watering down standards to keep students happy and artificially boost their position on league tables. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said grade inflation threatened to ¿undermine the international reputation¿ of British universities [File photo]

Critics say universities are watering down standards to keep students happy and artificially boost their position on league tables. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said grade inflation threatened to ‘undermine the international reputation’ of British universities [File photo]

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show almost half of students (48 per cent) graduated with a 2.1 last year, meaning 76 per cent gained one of the two top honours – up from only 50 per cent in 2000.

Critics say universities are watering down standards to keep students happy and artificially boost their position on league tables.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson has now promised to clamp down on the practice. 

He said grade inflation threatened to ‘undermine the international reputation’ of British universities and make degrees all but worthless.

‘This is something that we have to stop, and we will stop,’ he said.

‘We are going to reverse that trend, working hand in glove with the Office for Students (OfS). We are not going to continue to tolerate that continuous drift.

University grade inflation will be stamped out to end the devaluation of first class degrees, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday. More than one in four undergraduates (28.4 per cent) achieved the top honour last year [File photo]

University grade inflation will be stamped out to end the devaluation of first class degrees, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday. More than one in four undergraduates (28.4 per cent) achieved the top honour last year [File photo]

University grade inflation will be stamped out to end the devaluation of first class degrees, the Education Secretary vowed yesterday. More than one in four undergraduates (28.4 per cent) achieved the top honour last year [File photo]

‘Universities are expected to use their awarding powers responsibly and must not inflate grades for their own reputation or league table ranking.’ 

Office for Students chief executive Nicola Dandridge said: ‘This data shows us that the rapid increase in the rates of students being awarded first class degrees has stalled. This arrests a long-term trend, with significant year-on-year increases having been seen since 2011.

‘Previous analysis found evidence of unexplained increases in the rates of first class degrees at 94 per cent of universities.’

She added: ‘Grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in higher education for students, graduates and employers alike. We will continue to seek action to address these issues, both across the higher education sector as a whole and, should it be necessary, at individual universities.

‘This will help ensure that everyone can be confident in the value of degrees which students work so hard to achieve.’

A Universities UK spokesman said: ‘In this debate we should not overlook the evidence that students are working harder and improvements in teaching and investment in academic support and widening participation initiatives are also leading to legitimate grade improvement.’

British universities have received an influx of Chinese students, according to the Hesa figures.

China sent more students to the UK than any other overseas country last year. The 120,385 enrolments is a 34 per cent increase on the 89,540 in 2014/15.

Student numbers from India also increased substantially, from 18,325 in 2014/15 to 26,685 last year. There was a 41 per cent drop in the number of Nigerian students. 

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show almost half of students (48 per cent) graduated with a 2.1 last year, meaning 76 per cent gained one of the two top honours ¿ up from only 50 per cent in 2000 [File photo]

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show almost half of students (48 per cent) graduated with a 2.1 last year, meaning 76 per cent gained one of the two top honours ¿ up from only 50 per cent in 2000 [File photo]

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show almost half of students (48 per cent) graduated with a 2.1 last year, meaning 76 per cent gained one of the two top honours – up from only 50 per cent in 2000 [File photo]

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