News | Published January 18 2020

Increase in university students gaining top degree grades halts

Official annual figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the increase in university students acquiring top degree grades has plateaued, following warnings from ministers about “grade inflation”.

The Office for Students had aired concerns that “grade inflation” was undermining the value of a degree and affecting public confidence in higher education.

Latest figures have indicated that 28 per cent of students achieved a first class degree in 2018-19, a par with the previous year and putting an end to consecutive increases from 2011 onwards.

48 per cent and 19 per cent achieved 2:1 and 2:2 degrees respectively, while four per cent were awarded a third class degree. All of those rates were the same as those recorded for 2017-18.

During the window of rises, the rate of students achieving a first class degree had gone up by a staggering 80 per cent, something which education secretary Gavin Williamson said “had to stop”.

Williamson said: “We will reverse that trend”, adding that it was important in order to protect the reputation of the UK’s universities.

The number of students in higher education in the last academic year reached a record high of 2.38 million, an increase of 40,000 on the 2017-18 year, with the rate of female students increasing more sharply than that of their male counterparts.

In total, 57 per cent of students in 2018-19 were recorded as female.

12 per cent of students came from low participation neighbourhoods in the last academic year, which is the same rate as in 2014-15, pointing to shortfalls in widening access to higher education for disadvantaged young people.

The number of black students at universities has increased by 17 per cent since 2014-15, while the rate of Asian students is up by 20 per cent since then.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 18 2020

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