Are some universities better than others?

HEFCE released a report this week showing disparity between universities in England in the awarding of first and 2:1 class degrees, reports THE, even when qualifications on entry, social background, region, school type, gender, ethnicity and subject are controlled for. The implication from the story appears to be that the high number of good degrees from some universities is an indicator that such degrees are worth less than universities that award fewer.

I find it interested that this is just a report on England. A comparison between Scotland and England might have given a clearer picture. I would assume that Scottish uni’s award a lot of good degrees, simply because they filter the weaker students out before they get to honours, and typically you need to get around 60% in second year to go on and do honours. Weaker students leave the system at the end of third year with a general degree.

Bizarrely, Edinburgh gets a mention in the text, but not in the table of data, and despite it being a HEFCE report, not a SFC one. So, I don’t know how they made that calculation. Edinburgh is not in your remit, hon.

There are a lot of factors that HEFCE isn’t taking into consideration, such as rates of disability, form of teaching and assessment, etc.

I’m also not sure what “social background” means. I’m going to take a guess that there is a presumption that if you are working class that you won’t do so well, or if you are a first generation student, then you won’t do so well. But, I don’t think that would be the case. Various studies have shown that students from state schools get better degrees than private and independent schooled students. Just because you have a shit background or went to a shit school doesn’t mean that you’ll come out of uni with a Thora. It is probably the other way round.

The story also mentions that the external examiner system isn’t meant to define the standard for firsts and 2:1’s. Have they ever sat through an in-terminal external meeting? They most DEFINITELY do define them. My last uni changed their grading criteria, encouraged staff to mark at the higher end, and doubled the weight of the final year project, to increase the number of firsts.

This all just seems to feed into posh twats idea that ancient uni’s are superior to newer ones. They may be right, but this data doesn’t show one way or the other.

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