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UK Universities Face Investigations Over Grade Inflation: Watchdog

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Universities and colleges could face investigations over grade inflation, the head of England’s higher education watchdog has warned.

Lord Wharton, chairman of the Office for Students (OfS), said on Tuesday that the regulator is considering taking action over the “significant” grade inflation, which he said could devalue the degrees.

A report, released by the OfS in May last year, suggests that the proportion of first-class degrees handed out in England has more than doubled in the last decade—from 15.7 percent in 2010–2011 to 37.9 percent in 2020–2021.

Highlighting the figures, Lord Wharton told the Industry and Regulators Committee in the House of Lords: “This is a significant amount of grade inflation and more and more people are getting firsts. There may be very good reasons for that. We may have cohorts of much brighter students but there is also a risk that if everyone gets a first, no one gets a first. It could be seen to devalue the award in itself.

Students quite like getting firsts, so in the short term individual students who are studying now might quite like their chances being enhanced. But it may well not be in their interest in the long term if it undermines the value of the thing they have earned and worked so hard for.”

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