Figures have revealed academic performance at UEA has improved, with 34 percent of last year’s graduates awarded a first class degree.

Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show a 12 percent increase in the number of UEA students awarded firsts over the last three years.

In 2012/13, only 22 percent of UEA graduates were awarded a first while a further 54 percent of students received an upper second.

By contrast, over a third of the class of 2016 left university with a first classification, while 52 percent of graduates achieved a 2:1, and 12 percent received a 2:2.

Professor Neil Ward, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic) attributed the increase in the proportion of firsts to several factors.

He said: “We were able to recruit academically stronger students with higher entry qualifications.  The students who graduated in 2015/16 came into the university with stronger A-level grades than those who graduated in 2010/11.

“Second, over the period we invested almost £20m extra per year employing several hundred additional academic staff so the student-staff ratio improved significantly (moving from 18:1 to 13.3:1).

“We used additional staff to intensify student academic engagement and support and strengthen the students’ education.”

Prof Ward added that the increase could be attributed to the development of measures like a Learning Enhacement Team (LTS) and making the Library accessible 24/7.

UEA SU Undergraduate Education Officer Mary Leishman said: “There’s a mixture of reasons for the increase – there’s solid research that suggests the £9k fees generation are working harder and taking degrees more seriously, UEA students have enjoyed a much higher staff:student ratio in recent years, and the shift from exams to coursework we have been pushing for will also have had an impact.”

Miss Leishman continued: “What the increase does underline is the UK’s ageing degree classification system is increasingly not fit for purpose, which is why we’re supporting initiatives like the university’s introduction of Grade Point Average and wider efforts to differentiate graduates through schemes like the UEA Award.”

Other universities close to UEA are experiencing a similar change. At the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA), 27 percent of graduates received a first in 2016, as opposed to 16 percent in 2012. In the same time span, the University of Essex noticed a 9 percent rise in the total number of firsts awarded.

In fact, across the UK the general percentage of first class degrees being awarded has increased. HESA reported in 2015/16 24 percent of all UK graduates received a first class degree, whereas in 2012/13 only 18 percent of students earned the top classification.

Roughly, there has been a 2 percent national increase in the number of firsts awarded to students every year.

It is expected that the class of 2017 outperformed the 2016 graduates, but figures will not be available until next year.