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Trent registrar ‘glad’ as university are giving out less first class degrees

There were 7.1% fewer firsts for the 2019 grads compared to 2018

It is reported that Nottingham Trent will reduce the number of first class degrees they award to graduating students, as the overall percentage of students awarded firsts hit 40% across the UK.

Only 17.6 per cent of students at NTU received a first in 2019 compared with 24.7 per cent in 2017.

Mike Ratcliffe, Academic Registrar of Nottingham Trent University, wrote in Wonkhe, an online paper about higher education policy, about why he is glad that his university are offering less firsts for students graduating in 2020 and in future years.

Ratcliffe commented that his university ought to change their grading system so as to maintain "the value of an NTU degree and continue to ensure the quality of NTU first class awards." Nationally, 29% of students in 2018 were awarded a first class degree, as compared to 16% in 2011.

To counter this, Ratcliffe said that Trent have moved away from using the non linear 0-100 marking scale" Instead, grading at the university now consists of grade-based assessment (high, mid, or low first, 2:1, 2:2 etc) with a linear numerical system (0-16) to represent each grade.

This new system "ensures marks are based entirely on comparing the qualities of student work with associated written descriptions of assessment criteria". Ratcliffe says that the changes maintain trust in the value of an NTU degree.

Mike Ratcliffe told The Times said the review of grade marking at NTU began in 2014 and was explained to prospective students arriving in 2016.

“The row over grade inflation has been knocking around for years so we are not pretending it’s not an issue. But we wanted to do what was right for our students, to come up with a system that was simple, clear and fair and works for every discipline,” Mark said.

Commenting on the rise of firsts awarded to students, Susan Lapworth, director of competition and registration at the Office for Students, said: "Worries about grade inflation threaten to devalue a university education in the eyes of employers and potential students. So it is essential we regain and maintain public confidence in the reliability of degree classifications."

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A spokesperson for Nottingham Trent University (NTU) said: “The sector-wide challenge of growth in first class degrees – or ‘grade inflation’ – has become a source of legitimate political and public concern.

“In response, two years ago we introduced a system for classifying degrees for new entrants which is designed to be simple, clear and fair for all students.

“We have moved away from calculating grades on a scale of 0-100 and instead introduced a linear numerical system from 0-16 which is more representative of a student’s overall work.

“We have refined the algorithm we use to calculate degree awards, ensuring that only students who have performed at a first-class standard on the majority of their credits are awarded first class degrees.

“We have also removed the power of examination boards to make discretionary classification decisions for students on the classification borderline.