Are universities giving out better degrees to push themselves up league tables? Source: Cole Keister/

In 2017, 75 percent of students graduated with a first-class degree or a 2:1, leading the Office for Students (OfS) to issue a warning that it will take action against universities inflating their grades.

According to a study by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, persistent grade inflation resulted in 100,495 students in the United Kingdom graduating with top honours last year, up 40 percent in just four years.

Universities are reportedly free to create their own grading standards and algorithms to determine degree classifications. This has led to suspicion that universities are inflating grades so the institutions perform better on league tables.

“Universities are essentially massaging the figures, they are changing the algorithms and putting borderline candidates north of the border,” said Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), told The Telegraph.

Universities will now be more strictly monitored in order to prevent bad practice within institution doors, according to the Department for Education.

“The new Office for Students will, as a matter of routine, undertake analysis of degree classification trends and identify any cases where the pattern may suggest good or poor practice,” it said.

“The agreement of clear, sector-recognised standards will also be key to enabling the OfS to take strong regulatory action where grade inflation is happening.”

Disciplinary action will be taken against universities found to be inflating grades due to fears that degrees are becoming less respected by employers.

Already 2:2 and third-class degrees are seen as sub-par by employers, and continued grade inflation is now threatening the value of the top degree classes, reported The Telegraph.

“Ultimately, it is the students that lose out. If it continues we will be looking at a serious problem,” said Hillman.

“It is important that students, employers and the public have confidence in the degree classification system and academic standards,” said a spokesperson for Universities UK.

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