The proportion of university students awarded first-class honours has rocketed by 80% in the last seven years, prompting renewed calls from government for an immediate clampdown on grade inflation.
New figures released by the universities regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), show that 16% of students who graduated from an English university in 2010–11 attained the highest possible degree classification, but by last summer the proportion had gone up to 29%. Over the last year alone, the proportion of firsts has increased by more than 2%.
The surge in first-class degrees is not confined to a handful of rogue universities. Ninety-four percent of the 148 higher education providers included in the OfS analysis demonstrated a “statistically significant” but unexplained increase in the proportion of first-class degrees awarded last summer compared with 2010–11.