New OfS Insight brief examines grade inflation in English higher education

As part of our work to protect the credibility of qualifications awarded to students in England, we have published a new Insight brief on grade inflation.

Stock photo of a degree certificate

OfS analysis has shown that the proportion of first class degrees awarded in England has more than doubled, from 15.7 per cent in 2010-11 to 37.9 per cent in 2020-21.

The brief sets out the continuing work we are doing to prevent these increases being ‘baked in’ to the sector. While some of the growth could be attributed to improvements in teaching and learning, we will continue to work with the sector to explore and explain factors behind this considerable rise in higher degree classifications.

Jean Arnold, director of quality at the OfS, said:

‘Degrees must stand the test of time. Significant and sustained increases in degree classifications risk public confidence in higher education and could undermine the value of students’ hard work.

‘The steady growth in higher degree classifications over many years, especially first class degrees, has led to concerns that degrees have lost their value over time. This Insight brief looks at the evidence for this, and at the actions universities and colleges, as well as the OfS, are taking to address the implications for future students.’

Read the Insight brief


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