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Covid cannot be an excuse for grade inflation, watchdog says as first-class honours double

First-class levels have greater than doubled in a decade as a watchdog has warned that Covid cannot be used as an excuse for “baked in” college grade inflation.

Data from the Office for Students (OfS) launched on Thursday exhibits that greater than half of the firsts awarded to college students in 2021 cannot be defined in comparison with college students’ outcomes a decade in the past.

The proportion of graduates who attained high levels rose from 15.7 per cent in 2010/11 to 37.9 per cent in 2020/21, amounting to a 142 per cent enhance, in line with the OfS.

In whole, 84.4 per cent of scholars achieved a primary or 2.1 in contrast with 67 per cent 10 years in the past.

The OfS stated this equates to just about six in 10 first-class levels being unexplained when elements such as college students’ background, age and A-level outcomes are taken under consideration and in comparison with the 2010/11 cohort.

However, watchdog chiefs warned that the development has been a “real credibility issue for the sector for some time”, and that “the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to allow a decade of unexplained grade inflation to be baked into the system”.

The OfS stated it was conscious of how universities had used “no detriment” insurance policies to adapt their assessments to the pandemic, whereby testing was tailored in order that no scholar would be academically deprived due to the pandemic.

This method usually ensured that college students would be awarded a remaining grade no decrease than the college’s most up-to-date evaluation of their attainment.

However, the OfS discovered that the charges of first-class honours had risen for all college students since 2010/11, with a pre-pandemic report additionally discovering that just about half of the firsts awarded in 2018/19 have been unexplained.

‘Unmerited grade inflation is bad for students’

Following the publication of the report, the minister for increased training warned that the findings of “unjustifiable” grade inflation at universities “threaten to undermine the value of UK degrees”.

Susan Lapworth, interim chief govt on the OfS, stated the report “starkly demonstrates the scale of increases in degree classifications in our universities and colleges”.

“Unmerited grade inflation is bad for students, graduates and employers, and damages the reputation of English higher education,” she stated.

The OfS discovered that in 2020-21, 60.8 per cent of scholars with three As and above at A-level acquired a primary at college, in contrast with simply 33.5 per cent in 2010-11.

The report additionally discovered that the common rate of firsts for these getting into with three Ds at A-level and under has elevated greater than fivefold, from 5.3 to twenty-eight.5 per cent.

Ms Lapworth added that it’s “essential” that college students, employers and graduates have “confidence that degrees represent an accurate assessment of achievement”.

She stated the OfS would be publishing extra particulars on the way it will examine grade inflation at establishments shortly.

Unexplained firsts

The highest proportion of unexplained firsts handed out in 2020-21 was on the Royal Academy of Music, the place 59.3 per cent of firsts have been unexplained.

The Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, Leeds Conservatoire, New City College, and the University of Bradford have been additionally among the many high 5 highest variety of unexplained firsts within the report.

The information on diploma lessons was based mostly on 143 establishments, wanting on the outcomes for 266,705 graduates.

Michelle Donelan, the minister for increased and additional training, stated: “Just as Ofqual has set out its method to grading, with outcomes anticipated to return to the standard grade profile by 2023 following a transition stage subsequent year, it is necessary that universities do the identical to revive pre-pandemic grading.

“Unjustifiable will increase within the proportion of high levels being awarded threaten to undermine the worth of UK levels.

“We expect the Office for Students to challenge registered providers with an excessive proportion of top degrees being awarded.”

Entry grades mustn’t restrict expectations

Prof Steve West CBE, the president of Universities UK, stated that “universities remain committed to addressing grade inflation” by “reviewing the degree classification system and the way final grades are calculated”.

He added: “The Office for Students has rightly designed a regulatory system based mostly on the precept that the grades a scholar enters college with mustn’t restrict expectations of what they’ll obtain, and this logic should additionally apply to diploma classification.

“Universities have been asked to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds have the support they need to succeed at university. We believe the OfS must be careful not to assume that students with lower entry grades, typically from more disadvantaged backgrounds, cannot achieve first-class degrees.”

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