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Debate on grade inflation needed, say experts

Higher-education experts have given a mixed reaction to education secretary Damian Hinds’ intervention on grade inflation at universities.

On 24 March, Hinds said universities must tackle grade inflation and “reset the norm” for the proportion of firsts and upper second-class degrees awarded to students—although he did not set out specific details. An analysis published by the Office for Students (OfS) in December showed that 27 per cent of students obtained a first-class honours degree in 2016-17, up from 16 per cent in 2010-11, while 78 per cent obtained a first or 2:1 in 2016-17, up from 67 per cent in 2010-11.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, told HE that grade inflation remained a legitimate problem in universities. “I think most people do recognise there is an issue here. League tables, for example, may have encouraged some grade inflation that institutions should collaboratively tackle,” said Hillman. However, he added that Hinds’ intervention “begged more questions than it answered” and that it was still unclear where Hinds sits on issues such as grade inflation.

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