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First class degrees rise by almost 12 percent in 5 years

36.3 percent of UEA’s Class of 2018 was awarded a First Class degree, with the number of firsts at UEA rising by almost 12 percent in the past 5 years.

The figures also show the number of undergraduate students graduating increased by 676 from the year prior, a trend expected to continue as UEA continues its increasing student intake.

In the time following Concrete receiving this information the Office for Students published a report analysing degree classifications over time and the subsequent changes in attainment levels in universities. The data from the report places UEA as 3rd nationally for awarding firsts, behind Imperial College London and the University of Surrey.

The report shows that the grounds for arguing ‘grade inflation’ lie in the fact that since the 2010/11 academic year the number of 2:1’s awarded to students nationally has remained at 51 percent of students, while the number of firsts awarded is up by 11 percent

They argue that the numerous factors considered do not allow for such a correlation, a sentiment supported by Education Secretary Damian Hinds, who stated the increase ‘cannot be proportionate to improving standards’.

The Spectator has since cited UEA as a ‘striking’ case of an increase in 2:1’s and firsts cumulatively, with the figure increasing from 73 percent in 2010/11 to to 92 percent in 2016/17.

Pro-Vice Chancellor Neil Ward told Concrete that the university ‘have been actively reviewing our assessment practice as well as our degree algorithms in the light of these national reports’.

Ward remains adamant that the debates surrounding grade inflation do a ‘disservice both to today’s UEA students who are engaged with their studies and are working very hard for their success and also to all our staff who are also doing their utmost to see their students’ progress.

“Too little consideration is given to the fact that, certainly at UEA, university teaching has been heavily invested in, teaching has improved, and students now work much harder than they did in the past.

Over the past 10 years we’ve also done a lot of work to standardise assessment criteria and to improve the consistency of assessment across the board, all of which supports improved academic performance.”

Jenna Chapman, Undergraduate Officer said that the SU are seeking to ensure a ‘balance is found which supports student success and institutional reputation’ in order for UEA to retain ‘its international reputation for quality’.

However, she states that the SU ‘know our students work really hard and that UEA has been focused on improving learning and teaching so we’re not surprised that the number of firsts being awarded is higher’.

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October 2021
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The University of East Anglia’s official student newspaper. Concrete is in print and online.

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