Sunday, 2 August 2009

'Dumbing down' row over value of degrees

Universities were yesterday embroiled in a furious row over dumbing down after a parliamentary inquiry revealed the number of first-class degrees had almost doubled in a decade. Amid the war of words, senior Tories vowed to publish data that they claimed would reveal the true value of degrees.

Different universities demand "different levels of effort" from students to get similar degrees, according to the report from the commons select committee on innovation, universities and skills, suggesting that top grades from some colleges were not worth the same as others.

It calls for the watchdog overseeing standards in universities to be radically overhauled or scrapped and new guides set for degree marking, noting that while 53% of students achieved a first or 2:1 in 1997, that had risen by last year to 61%.

Universities claimed that standards must be high because colleges remained popular with overseas students, but the committee said it was "absurd and disreputable" to justify academic prowess in that way. Phil Willis, chair of the committee, said it was "extremely concerned that inconsistency in standards is rife". Read more
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