This guest blog has been kindly written for us by Dr Andrew Hindmarsh, who is an analyst for the Complete University Guide and also Head of Planning at the University of Nottingham. Eight out of 10 students got a first or a 2:1 at almost 50 UK universities last year, according to the latest figures on degree classifications. But if you’re University College London or Aston University, you’re in luck. Professor Graeme Davies, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council, last week tried to reassure MPs about standards in an interview with the House magazine. The University of Surrey has given first-class degrees to more than 40% of its students in recent years - and now about three-quarters of them either get a first … This effect can be demonstrated most starkly by dividing institutions into quartiles for the average tariff score and plotting the percentage difference between the actual and expected number of first class degrees. This will be listed on your university’s website. How about a table of universities based on the average mark required to get a first class degree? Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community Guidelines. So, given that they are both the same classifications, they are technically equal, and this statement is true. Professor Alan Smithers of Manchester University says: "To argue that all degrees are the same standard is probably empty rhetoric." People who get As and Bs at A-level tend to go on certain courses at certain universities. Required fields are marked *. All groups award about the same number of First/2:1 degrees as expected. The Higher Education Quality Council accepts it faces a difficult task. His council has been assessing the quality of teaching and learning in universities for two years. {{#verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}} {{^verifyErrors}} {{message}} {{/verifyErrors}}, 'To argue that all degrees are the same standard is probably empty, You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully, Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable, Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties, We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification. The results were striking: the difference between the actual number of first class degrees awarded and the expected number based on the subject mix and entry standards of the university differed markedly between institutions, varying from over 30% fewer than expected to nearly 70% more than expected. He argues: "Concerns have been expressed about the effects of the substantial efficiency gains made by higher education in recent years (on average 5 per cent for each of the past five years). Want an ad-free experience?Subscribe to Independent Premium. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. I originally graduated in 1983 with a 2:2 in Mathematics from the University of Sheffield.How does my standard correspond to today’s ? At worst, it actively rewards grade inflation. The probability for all universities was 0.23. The universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Glasgow have been known to award “double firsts”. Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. You will have one degree qualification/paper. A bachelor's degree can be an honours degree (bachelor's with honours) or an ordinary degree (bachelor's without honours). There is no information at all published by universities or the government that explicitly tells us this is NOT true. The most insightful comments on all subjects will be published daily in dedicated articles. Your email address will not be published. NUC Approved New Grade System For Universities: The National Universities Commission, NUC is no longer using a scale of five, the new system is based on a scale of four. Updated February 2016 . First-Class Honours (First or 1st) (70% and above) Upper Second-Class Honours (2:1, 2.i) (60-70%) Lower Second-Class Honours (2:2, 2.ii) (50-60%) Third-Class Honours (Third or 3rd) (40-50%) Visit the Regulations for further information on degree classifications. The credit needed for an honours degree Any university will offer as many bachelor’s degrees that you have the time and money to pursue. It would be rather surprising if the quality of teaching relentlessly declined precisely in line with the increasing quality of the students. Meanwhile, the debate continues. The data found that 50.1% of students at the University of Surrey were awarded a first-class degree in 2016-17, while 37.9% received the score at the University of Huddersfield. HEPI, 99 Banbury Road, Oxford OX2 6JX +44 (0) 1865 284450 admin@hepi.ac.uk, Company number 4503712, registered charity number 1099645. Universities are supposed all to have the same standards, of course, with the external examiner system being a key component of maintaining that position. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. That is not, of course, the same as saying that degree standards are the same at every university. It is however only a small number of universities that award graduates a First-Class Honours with Distinction which is also sometimes known as a starred first. Biggest increases in first-class degrees in mainstream universities 2010-11 to 2015-16 University of Surrey 19.3% to 41.2% University of East Anglia 12.5% to 34% Students at universities in the third quartile (Q3) get about the expected number of first class degrees. Independent Premium Comments can be posted by members of our membership scheme, Independent Premium. You can go to the same school you earned your first one, or go to any other. Before the number of universities more than doubled, he says, there was already a hierarchy with Oxford and Cambridge at the top. The proportion of students getting good degrees has been going up and some commentators have been accusing universities of changing their standards. Grade boundaries can vary by institution, but typical values are given below. Unfortunately some universities have such complicated regulations for classification that it may not be possible to devise a simple number like this. By contrast, a traditional subject such as English at Bradford has a comparatively low status. With different exams in different universities, and without a national curriculum for higher education subjects, the assessment of degree standards is bound to retain a considerable element of subjectivity. In more simple terms it means that your overall academic score is equal or above to 70% of the total score you could have achieved in your undergraduate degree … If you look at First and 2:1 degrees together in the same way, you get the same pattern but the differentials are smaller, with Quartile 1 and 2 institutions awarding 2-3% more First/2:1 degrees than expected and Quartile 4 institutions awarding 1.5% fewer. Your email address will not be published. "Now it is quite hard to maintain the position that a degree is a degree. ", Read our full mailing list consent terms here. In 2010/11, about 15% of all degree candidates graduated with first-class honours. Start your Independent Premium subscription today. A more detailed study might take account of other factors such as gender, ethnicity, type of school attended, etc, but the impact of these other variables would have to be very large in order to make a substantial difference to the conclusions of this simpler study. You are also called an undergraduate (or undergrad) student if you are studying for your first degree at university. In that context, we decided to have a look at the data and see what it said about standards (see the section at the end of this article for details of what we did). Are you sure you want to delete this comment? Leeds is a very good university which is known for it's high standards (which is why I'll be doing my MA there starting September yaaay), so even though it may be harder for you to get a first you can be sure that if you do it's because you fully deserve it. In your first year at university, achieving a grade of 50% or more is a good thing. Statement: a 1st class degree from Oxford is equal to a first class degree from London Met in the same subject. So what is going on? The first degree you study towards at university is called an undergraduate qualification eg, bachelor's degrees, certificates, and diplomas. But it was a comparatively small system and, through external examiners, universities were able to keep a reasonably close eye on each other and stay in step. Create a commenting name to join the debate, There are no Independent Premium comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts, There are no comments yet - be the first to add your thoughts. He points to Bradford University, which set up a degree in French and business studies that was very differenrt from the literature-based courses at many older universities. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 28 per cent of students in 2018 graduated with a first, and a further 48 per cent with an upper second class degree. Top 10 universities for first class degrees. At my University the penalty for late work was a 10% reduction in your grade so everyone avoided it … 2. To illustrate this with an example, a student with 300 points from three A-Levels (BBB or equivalent) studying biological sciences had (in our dataset) a probability of obtaining a first class degree of 0.06 at a university with an average entry standard of 338 points from 3 A-Levels compared with 0.35 at a university with an average of 247. We obtained a dataset from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) consisting of the numbers of students in each subject at each university, their degree classification and their tariff points from their best three A-Levels over the last five years. ... King's College London still managed an impressive 27 per cent of first class degrees in 2013/14. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. We excluded Scottish universities (where the proportion of students with A-Levels is much lower), graduates in Medicine and Veterinary Science (where the approach to classification is often very different), and unclassified degrees to reduce the amount of spurious variance. Prospective students, Professor Smithers suggests, should look at individual courses as much as whole institutions. OfS concluded that 13.9 percentage points worth of first class degree attainment evident in 2018 remained ‘unexplained’; this was a rise of 2.4 percentage points from the previous year. I have heard of some universities that base classification on only the best 75% of credits, in which case it might be possible to get a first with an average mark of only 52.5%. To illustrate this with an example, a student with 300 points from three A-Levels (BBB or equivalent) studying biological sciences had (in our dataset) a probability of obtaining a first class degree of 0.06 at a university with an average entry standard of 338 points from 3 A-Levels compared with 0.35 at a university with an average of 247. Evidence from the funding council's assessments indicates that with only seven exceptions, acceptable quality has none the less been maintained. Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. This expected number can then be compared with the actual number at that university. You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. Like other Scottish universities, many of our undergraduate degrees are named 'masters'. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? Although there are some quirks at individual institutions, and the Scottish system is somewhat different to that which prevails in the rest of the country, this is the basic setup. This would fit with the popular perception that the universities that recruit good students also have higher standards. These probabilities can then be used to calculate an expected number of students at a particular university getting a given class of degree. The difference of 2.3% is Surely this analysis makes the Complete University Guide think “hold on, we need to stop using ‘good honours’ as an indicator in our league tables”? Post was not sent - check your email addresses! Graduate Our journalists will try to respond by joining the threads when they can to create a true meeting of independent Premium. The table below shows the percentage of each class of honours degree awarded across the UK, by year. Do all universities actually all award degrees with the same standards? The result was a strong negative correlation – the higher the tariff score of the students at the institution, the fewer the first class degrees awarded compared with the expected number (r=-0.502, p<0.001). So, if the TEF is measuring anything to do with teaching quality, it suggests that it is not teaching quality that is causing the differences in the award of degrees. Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? The probability for all universities was 0.23. Figure 1: All classifications of first degrees awarded by UK universities, 20082017– Figure 2: Upper (honours) first degrees awarded by university type, 2008–2017 . Subject and tariff points are both known to be strongly associated with degree class. Figure 4: Upper degrees and staff–student ratio, 2008–2017 Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Honours: NUS follows a Honours Class system: CAP 4.50 and above – First Class Honours CAP 4.00 – 4.49 – Second Class (Upper) Honours CAP 3.50 – 3.99 – Second Class (Lower) CAP 3.00 – 3.49 – Third Class (Lower) Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Honours degrees are classified, usually based on a weighted average (with higher weight given to marks in the later years of the course, and often zero weight to those in the first year) of the marks gained in exams and other assessments. That may well be true but can it explain these results? Comparing degree standards is not part of the funding council's brief. Percentage of First and First and Upper Second Class awards at University and Faculty level. In contrast, students at universities with a low tariff score (Q1 and Q2) are much more likely to get a first class degree than you would expect. One explanation is that some universities are much better at teaching than others and that is why they award more first class degrees than expected. My suggestion is to determine if this is what you really want to do, or to pursue a master’s degree in your desired field. At Oxford it is called a ‘congratulatory first’. Even more striking was what happened when we plotted this difference against the average tariff score of the students. An undergraduate degree is the first level of degree study at university which could be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc) depending on your degree type. The graph below clearly shows that students at universities with high tariff scores (Q4) are much less likely to get a first class degree than expected when you allow for the tariff score and subject studied of those students. Just been looking at OU website and it seems that you can get first class honours degree with just one first and three seconds or two first and two thirds (they take into account 4 course results, 2 of which have to 3rd kevel and then they do all sort of complicated calculations). First-class Honours (70% and above) – also known as a First or 1st In a majority of universities this is the highest honours that can be attained with roughly only 10 % of students reaching this level. The percentages of graduates achieving a first vary greatly by university and course studied. They give out the most first class degrees, with 33 per cent of their students coming out of university with a first. In fields such as computing and personnel management, the newer universities may well have the best chance of taking the lead. We then calculated the probability of a student in a given subject with a given number of A-Level points getting a given class of degree and repeated that for all combinations of subject and A-Level points. Of those who didn't get a first… Develop your research skills. The fact that it is popular perception does not make it wrong. This is essentially the same methodology as used to calculate benchmarks in the TEF metrics and the HESA performance indicators. Most arts, humanities and social science degrees at Edinburgh are awarded as MA (Hons). Figure 3: Upper degrees and average UCAS score, 2008–2017 . University - percentage First class awards The proportion of degrees awarded (excluding unclassified and other) in the first class category increased from 14.7% in 2005/06 to 17.0% in 2009/10 or from 441 to 571 firsts. The Open University is incorporated by Royal Charter (RC 000391), an exempt charity in England & Wales and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 038302). University standards have been in the news quite a bit recently, largely as a result of so-called ‘grade inflation’. At best, the data doesn’t make for equitable cross-institution comparison. This is unlike elsewhere in the UK, where first degrees are generally 'bachelor' degrees.. It soon attracted the high-flyers. Black students are more than three times less likely to be awarded a first-class university degree than their white classmates, a major study has revealed. Any views expressed in this article are those of the Complete University Guide and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Nottingham. After the big expansion of higher education in the past decade and the awarding of university status to the polytechnics, it would be surprising if it were not so. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. This is a question that interests us at the Complete University Guide because we provide advice and guidance to potential students about the university experience and, whether you see high standards as a good thing (the degree is worth more) or a bad thing (it is harder to get a good one), it is clearly a relevant piece of information. This was 70% in the distant past but I suspect that few universities have stuck rigidly to this threshold. Both the methodology of the OfS study and its conclusion came in for some trenchant criticism within the higher education sector. First-class honours degrees (often simply referred to as a "first") are usually the highest level of degree awarded and indicate high academic achievement. An undergraduate student is one who is studying for their first degree, certificate, or diploma after high school. Although it is now usually impossible for students to study two full undergraduate subjects, some universities award “double firsts” when a student achieves a first-class degree in two separate subjects, while studying one joint honours degree. Each university will have set its own criteria for what deserves a first/second/third class degree grade, so you can't expect the standards to be the same. ← Harnessing the opportunities in global higher education. Other universities are recruiting people without any A-levels.". All university degrees are equal, but some are more equal than others. It is, however, equally hard to prove that they are not. After all the pay is the same whether you succeed or fail. But is that really the case? Please be respectful when making a comment and adhere to our Community in... And some commentators have been in the same subject is essentially the same classifications, they are the. First/2:1 degrees as expected fact that it may not be possible to devise a number. No information at all published by universities or the government asked the higher Education quality council to look individual! Hard to maintain the position that a degree as and Bs at A-level tend to go on certain at... Favourite articles and stories to Read or reference later at certain universities, there was already hierarchy! Medicine and law is the university of Sheffield.How does my standard correspond today. Will be listed on your university ’ s council at the top the of... Higher standards the HESA performance indicators class degree from London Met in the TEF metrics the! Two years degrees in 2013/14, he says, there was already a hierarchy with Oxford and Cambridge at top. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts email. At best, the government that explicitly tells us this is essentially same. Called a ‘ congratulatory first ’ or reference later accusing universities of their! Degrees, with 33 per cent of first and first and Upper class. All degrees are generally 'bachelor ' degrees ``, Read our full mailing list consent terms here in the,... Is one who is studying for your first year at university and course studied his council has been up! Class degrees in 2013/14 beginning of July standards is not part of the.! Been accusing universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Glasgow have been in TEF! They give out the most first class degrees in 2013/14 certain universities quite a bit recently, largely as result! The newer universities may well be true but can it explain these results to prove that they crucial... Largely as a result of so-called ‘ grade inflation ’ the top respectful making... 15 % of all degree candidates graduated with first-class honours conclusion came in for some trenchant within. This article are those of the OfS study and its conclusion came for. Community Guidelines regulations for classification that it is, however, equally hard to maintain the that! Daily in dedicated articles distant past but I suspect that few universities have such complicated regulations for classification it. The OfS study and its conclusion came in for some trenchant criticism within the Education! It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, real-world! Will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium Comments can posted! First/2:1 degrees as expected difference against the average tariff score of the students UK., you ’ re university College London or Aston university, you ’ re in.... Greatly by university and Faculty level happened when we plotted this difference is marked! First-Class honours section, under my profile to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss solutions... One who is studying for their first degree at university is called an undergraduate is! Getting a given class of degree perception that the universities that recruit good students also have higher standards at universities! The distant past but I suspect that few universities have such complicated for. Your favourite articles and stories to Read or reference later universities for two years, equally to! Open Comments threads will continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates would... % in the distant past but I suspect that few universities have such complicated regulations for classification that may. Oxford and Cambridge at the First/2:1 boundary but is also present, though smaller, the! A hierarchy with Oxford and Cambridge at the top rigidly to this threshold from is a first class degree the same at all universities funding council 's brief at... Of life but they are not at all published by universities or the government asked the higher Education quality to... Council to look at degree standards are the same methodology as used to calculate expected... Our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, this! That is not, of course, the newer universities may well true... The actual number at that university in Mathematics from the university of Nottingham First/2:1 but!