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Grade inflation

Discussion in 'Education news' started by peter12171, Dec 19, 2018.

  1. peter12171

    peter12171 Lead commenter

    This is apparently a concern in the universities.


    I fail to see much difference between grade inflation there, which appears to be a bad thing, and in GCSEs and A levels, which we’re often told is a good thing.
  2. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Occasional commenter

    Grade inflation has stopped in GCSE and A level due to comparable outcomes meaning that the proportion of each grade will remain roughly the same. The only people who thought grade inflation was a good thing were schools who would find their grades improving each year without having to work for it.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  3. Sisyphus_rolls_again

    Sisyphus_rolls_again Established commenter

    If schools/teachers across the country did 'work for it', would that have had the same effect?
    If so, how are you able to differentiate between the two ?
  4. schoolsout4summer

    schoolsout4summer Star commenter

    As Universities and schools are now run as businesses, where profit is paramount, then it should come as no surprise that we now have creeping grade inflation.
    "Good" grades, (for less effort) attract more customers.
    Good for business and good for "customers".
    What's not to like?
  5. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    We haven't just had grade inflation in schools, we've had whole level inflation. In my subject, CSE (i.e. equivalent to Foundation GCSE) papers from the 1980s contained questions that you now don't see until AS or A level - floating point binary, for example, or using De Morgan's rules to simplify Boolean algebra.

    I wondered whether the same thing had happened to degree standards. From talking to recent graduates, from comments in teaching forums from younger teachers who think that new A level questions are "degree level" (where I think that they're often CSE level), and from talking to local employers who complain about the standard of graduates*, I think that it's probably been going on for years.

    *A complaint I recently heard about engineering graduates (from a large local employer) was that they're very slick, they know how to organise themselves and make presentations, but they don't have any actual engineering knowledge.
  6. gainly

    gainly Established commenter

    A couple of years ago I was asked to tutor a young man for a maths exam who was doing a computer science degree at a former polytechnic, now a university. I was slightly hesitant as I normally tutor up to A level. I certainly needn't have worried, it was about the level of the old intermediate GCSE.
  7. bessiesmith

    bessiesmith Occasional commenter

    My friend is a lecturer at a new university. She is constantly under pressure from powers above not to fail students - even if they don't complete assignments or pass exams - because it doesn't look good on their stats and sends out 'the wrong message'. Unlike with GCSEs or A-levels there is no real system of external moderation so universities can give out whatever degree classifications they like.
    agathamorse likes this.
  8. gainly

    gainly Established commenter

    It's the inevitable result of turning students into customers. Anyone paying £30,000+ is going to expect at least a first, even if they do little work. How long before we have First* or similar?
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. maggie m

    maggie m Established commenter

    Sad but not surprising. I worked like a dog for my upper second in the early eighties, if I recall there were 2 firsts out of 80 odd students on my course. Even 7 - 9 years ago my daughters worked damn hard for their upper seconds. I get the impression this class is handed out like sweets now.
    agathamorse likes this.
  10. gainly

    gainly Established commenter

    Not quite the same thing, but when I did my degree (early 70's) our department had two professors, one of whom was head of department, one reader and the other academic staff were lecturers or senior lecturers. Just had a look at the department website; they now have 20 professors and 10 associate professors.
  11. peter12171

    peter12171 Lead commenter

    When I completed my degree in 1993 there was one person who got a first. Apparently that was the first one awarded since the mid ‘70s.
  12. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    from the day they removed the limit on each grade, older people who sat exams when the standards were mainteined at a set level, ahve suffered as their CV suggests their exam grades are worse then younger types.
    agathamorse likes this.
  13. BG54

    BG54 New commenter

    Similar to my experience as a Chemistry student (upper second) in the mid 70s, firsts constituted about 7% of the class and even adding in upper seconds barely made 25% of the total.

    Yes, IIRC at O-level it was 40% for a 6 (pass), 50% for a 5 etc up to 90% for a 1? This was in 1970.
  14. lanokia

    lanokia Star commenter

    We had this recently.

    We blind marked a GCSE paper. Whole department undermarked. I gave it about 25%. Others went a bit higher. Turned out it was near 60% from the board.

    Thing is we all couldn't see why.
    bevdex and agathamorse like this.
  15. thekillers1

    thekillers1 Lead commenter

    Sounds like some the young cocky teachers and headteachers I’ve met recently in other schools!
  16. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    In my degree in the early 80's, two people in our year out of about 30 got a first, about a dozen got a 2.1 and the rest got a Desmond or third. Whatever you got, you had to work damned hard.

    These days, degrees are often waffle, with little true teaching hours, lots of nebulous theory and little practice. Paying 'customers' now expect a minimum of a 2.1, there are no standards to control what grades are handed out and it is in the interests of universities to hand top grades out like sweeties. Many graduates still cannot even write proper English or do sums in their heads.

    The whole system has become a joke.
    agathamorse and Catgirl1964 like this.
  17. num3bers

    num3bers Occasional commenter

    Can I add another factor that is leading to grade inflation these days? One maybe not so known as yet - the use of other people to write essays and tutor for students? I have found myself on the receiving end of a number of requests ( often from other staff for their children in university) to help with essays so that their children do not " fail" the tests. So far I have been awarded two firsts in my endevours over the last four years ....... I find it hard to say know but I feel its actually a cheek of my colleagues to keep asking.

    It also begs how many other students are getting stuff done for them in different places? With coursework counting to final grades it is easy to inflate using someone to do the work.
  18. davidmu

    davidmu Occasional commenter

    Here are the actual figures for the faculty of science in a top Russell Group university in 1962. 6% gained a first, 28% gained a 2(1), 32% gained a 2(2), 9% gained a 3rd and 24% gained an ordinary degree. A considerable number failed to be awarded a degree. In Physics there were 1400 applications for 60 places in 1959 to study under a Nobel prize winner!
    agathamorse likes this.
  19. drek

    drek Lead commenter

    I know some recent postgraduates who grumble about texts and documents that are too ‘wordy’..... It does not surprise me if they can get away with tutors or academic ‘friends’ writing their dissertations!
    Like the BTEC saga I imagine the government funded a lot of dubious masters and phds based on desired ‘figures’ which show that a lot more of the population are educated to a higher level than they actually earned.......
    Those who wanted the Btecs back insist that a health and social studies course with a distinction should be awarded the same points as a chemistry gcse.
    In what universe is that equivalent? A chemistry A* student will be working most weekends to improve their understanding of their subject.
    A hairdresser will be mostly socialising and improving their networking skills.....Most of their exam and coursework revision will be doable within the coursework allocated hours.........
    Maybe social media giants should be allowed to award certificates for amount of usage that leads to increased profitability?
    Perhaps they can be awarded equivalent professional points separately but certainly there should be no hinting that they are in anyway academically equivalent as they tried to make everyone buy into last time around........
    They have equal intrinsic value and worth to society but definitely not academic worth.
    agathamorse likes this.
  20. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I went to a Russell Group university in the 80s, and I would say that mode result in Science degrees was probably a 2ii - but it might have been a 2i for social sciences. I had a flatmate who was delighted because he got the first First awarded by the History department for several years.
    agathamorse likes this.

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