To The Guardian
Fifty years ago, only the top 2%* of the population went to university, and about 10% of them got firsts, so that’s 0.2% of the population. Now, 30% go to university , and 25% of them get firsts, making 7.5% of the population. The universities say there is no grade inflation, so we must be more than 30 times cleverer! Impressive or what? ( letter from Rob Symonds, Birmingham)
This is what happens when you make the customers (the students) pay for their studies, whether in ready cash or with the aid of a loan. In my old college they have abolished Fourth class honours degrees altogether and now give a paltry number of Thirds. The great majority get Seconds, (which used to be an achievement), divided into 2.1’s and 2,2’s.
In the old days most people got thirds and fourths, a signal to employers that girls and booze had been the priorities, not hard studying. At least the employers knew the score and maybe enjoyed the good-timers who joined their companies. Now a prospective employer has a hard time judging what a 1st Class Honours degree really means. It used to signal “seriously bright”.
This is all a matter of perception. What a university considers improved success to other people is a lowering of standards and pandering to the crowd, the customer, whatever. The amusing aspect of this is that in the college in question the majority of students are (yes!) women, and they would probably have thrived under the old system being, as we all now know, brighter and more grown-up than the men (ahem!) If you are going to admit so many clever women why change the system? Personally, I believe in high expectations, even if I personally fail to meet them.
(* Actually 4%, but who’s counting?)