Hatfield’s university defends grading after report slams national ‘massaging of figures’

The University of Hertfordshire's de Havilland Campus in Hatfield

The University of Hertfordshire's de Havilland Campus in Hatfield - Credit: Archant

Students getting first class degrees at the University of Hertfordshire have soared amid criticism of grade inflation nationwide.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that in 2010, the year the government announced tuition fees would triple, 15.3 per cent of students at the university were awarded the top grade, compared to 22.4 per cent last year.

According to a report on grade inflation by think tank Reform, competing universities have altered grade calculations to increase the number of top marks.

It also states there is considerable evidence that the UK’s universities’ degree algorithms, which translate marks into a final classification, are contributing to grade inflation.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said that “universities are essentially massaging the figures”, adding: “They are changing the algorithms and putting borderline candidates north of the border.”

However, director of academic quality assurance at the university, Frank Haddleton, said it had not changed how it calculates degrees during that period.

“That may explain why the increase in the proportion of first class honours degrees awarded by the university is lower than the national average awarded by the UK Higher Education sector over the same timescale,” she added.

Most Read

Ms Haddleton said that the uni’s recent Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) gold award reflected its efforts to ensure the best quality of education.

The focus on teaching excellence, coupled with more A-level grades of students attending over time, has produced a rise in the number graduates gaining firsts, she told the WHT.

According to the report, out of the 4,600 students to finish undergraduate degrees in 2017, 1,030 were awarded firsts, 2,000 2:1s and 1,150 2:2s.

A further 415 students received a third, the lowest grade which constitutes a pass.

In 2010, the University of Hertfordshire handed out 610 firsts and 1,775 2:1s, out of a total 4,000 students graduating.

Tom Richmond, the author of Reform’s report, said “rocketing” grade inflation benefits no-one and could eventually lead to students opting to study abroad.