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By Billy Bambrough on 17.3.2024

Standards slip as universities vie for league table success

In universities across the country, students are getting higher marks for work that is of a low to sub standard and which would have as little as 10 years ago not earnt them a passing grade. This appears to be happening across the board with work that deserves a low second being upped to a higher second and even as far as a first.

The evidence for this is based almost entirely on statistics, although a number of concerned lecturers have alerted the authorities that they are being encouraged by their university to “turn a blind eye” to failing students and allow them to slip through their degree with a passing grade.

It has been reported that students, both British and from aboard, enter their university courses with levels of written English so poor that universities have had to institute basic English courses so that students can reach the literacy levels required for essay writing and a grasp of “intellectual ideas”.

Over the past decade the number of firsts has more than doubled, while the number of undergraduates attending classes has increased by only less than a half. This shows in lower grades as well, as the standard for students now leaving their studies is a higher second, with anything lower becoming more and more rare.

“This dip in standards is an ugly reflection on how universities are being run, not as institutes of leaning but as businesses concerned only with tuition fees and league tables” says one student at The University of Kent.

The more high qualifications the university awards, the higher up the league table it will be; more students will apply to study there and therefor the university will mke more money.

As each university gathers information about its nearest rivals it must follow similar grading patterns to remain competitive and replaces academic standards with a “bidding” game to try and attract more students.

The problem goes deeper than purely trying to get ahead of their rivals. The universities now can not afford to let any student go and will allow them pass with fewer than a quarter of the marks required in order to make sure they return the next year and pay their tuition fees. This is made all the more troubling with non-EU students paying considerably more than their British counterparts.

Dr. Simon Kirchin, the Director of Learning and Teaching for the School of European Culture and Language at UKC, states: “In my experience as SECL DoLT standards are not falling and, despite problems that there might be in theory and with some instances, by and large I think that the essay format, and other sorts of similar writing, is a great way to assess people’s knowledge and understanding of their topics. It is also something that most colleagues will grade and comment on in similar ways in my experience. In SECL we also employ many other sorts of assessment, and marking standards have not fallen there either. Plagiarism is a problem across all of HE at present. I’ll never say that we catch all miscreants, but I’m confident that in SECL at least my colleagues are vigilant and view protecting the integrity of our degrees as of prime importance.”

MP’s are currently looking into higher education establishments to find out if the standards of student’s work has significantly dropped without their grades being jepordized.


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