No exams failed at top UK universities

Concerns have been expressed for education standards at UK universities after an investigation by The Sunday Times newspaper found no students failed an exam at a selection of top universities.

According to data given to The Sunday Times or released under freedom of information laws, eleven UK universities, including Durham and Oxford, recently admitted that all of their 33,000 recent undergraduates who sat final exams received an award.

A further 32 universities were shown to have given degrees to around 99 percent of students, with failure rates as low as 0.09 percent. As before, included in the 32 are prestigious institutions such as Cambridge, UCL and Exeter.

The statistics for postgraduate study, which can carry higher tuition fees, show an even greater insurance of success, with almost 30 universities awarding masters degrees to 100 percent of students

An anonymous academic from Lancaster, as quoted in The Times, said: “We are under great pressure not to fail master’s students, even where they can barely speak or write English and their work is incomprehensible.”

Unsurprisingly, the new information has raised questions regarding standards in universities.

Lord Adonis, former Minister for Education under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said: “It is not credible that amongst thousands of students none, or virtually none, will fail to make the grade.

“This yet again raises the issue of university standards and universities’ obsession with simply milking revenue out of students without requiring enough in return.”

In response, and amid growing concerns for the nation’s higher education, Universities UK stated: “The UK has one of the most robust and transparent systems in the world for assuring academic standards.

“Universities follow the criteria set out in the UK quality code for higher education, developed by the UK’s independent, higher-education quality agency.”


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Sean Bennett

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October 2021
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