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OfS Warns Over Grade Inflation

Posted by Richard Ward in

Image courtesy of Flickr, Creative Commons

The higher education watchdog has issued a stark warning to universities, suggesting they will be fined or removed from the official register if they fail to tackle grade inflation.

The Office for Students (OfS) revealed that 84% of universities have reported an unexplained increase in the number of first-class degrees awarded.

The proportion of first-class honours awarded to students has risen from 16% of all those awarded in 2010-11 to 27% just six years later.

Commenting on the analysis, Nicola Dandridge, the OfS Chief Executive, said: "This report shows starkly that there has been significant and unexplained grade inflation since 2010-11. This spiralling grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in our higher education system."

In response, universities have defended themselves, saying the sector has changed significantly with a greater emphasis on the quality of teaching, along with students working harder to achieve higher grades.

The OfS has used statistical modelling at the student level to account for factors that might influence attainment. It concluded that a significant element of the increases cannot be explained by changes to the graduate population.

Across the sector as a whole, the OfS found that 11.6 percentage points of the increase in first-class degrees awarded between 2010-11 and 2016-17 were unexplained, though in some universities the figure is much higher. At Surrey it is 27.3 percentage points; other universities where there are relatively high unexplained increases include Huddersfield, Greenwich, Coventry and Essex.