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Now students pay thousands, firsts are on the rise. Fancy that

Jan 14, 2018 by

Vanessa Thorpe –

For those who went to university a while ago, a remark might be in order if you won a Desmond or higher

Many proud academics must have spluttered over their morning coffee in the senior common room to learn that a first-class degree, once as rare as hen’s teeth, is now more akin to a hen’s egg: we can all have one for breakfast, it seems, if we can only be bothered to go out to collect it.

A survey by the Press Association has revealed that far from denoting scholarly excellence and a top-notch mind, in Britain a first is today a more likely outcome of a university education than a lower second.

Analysis of official figures for 2015-16 gathered by the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows the share of graduates with the highest possible result has risen by an astronomical 44% in just five years. This sharp increase in the number of firsts is particularly marked after 2012-13, the year in which – pure coincidence? – students were charged higher fees and in which 18% got a first.

Perhaps this is cause for national jubilation? After all, many students will not now need to cope with the social impediment of acquiring what was once fondly known as “a Desmond” after the former Archbishop Tutu (2:2, geddit?).

Although if we are now producing so many students of the highest cognitive calibre, how many of them have noticed the strong correlation between the amount they have to pay out these days and what they get handed back at the end? Several billion pounds surrendered in fees, it seems clear, can buy a quarter of all undergraduates a much better reason to break open the bubbly on results day.

Source: Now students pay thousands, firsts are on the rise. Fancy that | Vanessa Thorpe | Opinion | The Guardian

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