Grade inflation: new survey looks at degree algorithms

HE providers asked about their degree classification rules

Universities UK (UUK) is asking higher education providers to take part in an online survey about their use of degree algorithms in an attempt to reduce the number of top-class degrees.

The new survey will shed light on how degree classifications are decided. It is the latest stage in a sector-wide initiative led by UUK to tackle grade inflation and the perception that degrees are ‘dumbing down’.

Degree algorithms are the process an institution follows to convert a student’s grades into a final degree classification (first, 2.1, 2.2 or third). They differ from university to university.

The responses to the new survey will help assess sector activity since the 2017 UUK report Understanding degree algorithms. There will be a series of UK-wide workshops to discuss the results.

Last October, the UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment (UKSCQA) published guidance on degrees classifications. This followed a sector-wide statement in May 2019.

Professor Andrew Wathey, chair of UKSCQA and vice-chancellor of Northumbria University, said: “The degree algorithms work commencing today is a welcome step in Committee’s programme of work in this area. Through close engagement with the sector, it will shed light on the pace and extent of changes in institutional practice, and provide valuable input into the review, one year on, of the Statement of Intent published in May 2019.”

Universities UK (UUK) have launched the survey with GuildHE and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), on behalf of UKSCQA.

The survey is open until 11.45pm on Friday 14 February.

The university regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), analysed the upward trend in first-class degrees last year and said: “13.9 percentage points’ worth of first class degree attainment remains unexplained”. The OfS report said: “the proportion of first-class honours degrees awarded has increased from 16 per cent to 29 per cent between 2010-11 and 2017-18”.

Read more:

Value of degrees: sector body announces plans to protect standards

Universities to tackle perception of ‘dumbed down’ degrees

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