A "working group" has been set up under the vice-chancellor of Leicester University, Professor Sir Robert Burgess, to investigate the abolition of the old degree classifications system. No longer will students emerge from their three years of hoggish indolence, erotic experiment and cyberspatial plagiarism with a First, a Second or a Third. They'll now be given a Higher Education Achievement Report, which is like a school report, only longer and far more boring.
It'll rant on for six pages about the courses and "modules" taken by students, the "skills" they've mastered, their course work and timed exams, plus random details about whether they did volunteer work or played in the lacrosse team. All this, says Prof Sir Robert, is "designed to encourage a more sophisticated approach to recording students' achievements in the 21st century" than single-degree classifications, which, he continued, give "not enough detail for students and employers".
Oh, please. Sir Robert and his working group fail to understand the power that's packed in those three levels of degree. It's like the Olympics. We saw the striving, the bulging sinews and bursting lungs et cetera of the athletes – but the point was to get the gold, not to look forward to six pages of explanatory prosifying.
I never got a First. Like most people, I got a Second. At Oxford, though, they didn't believe in "2:1" and "2:2" classifications, just the naked word. Back in the 1970s, it was a sort of game. Everybody who'd been awarded a Second called it an "Upper Second". If you got a Third, you flaunted it as the mark of a louche and insouciant playboy. But – a super-brainy pal told me – if you got a First, it was like acquiring a knighthood, a halo, and an odour of intellectual sainthood that you knew would hover around you through your whole life.
Can they really replace that with the equivalent of a gold star? As ideas go, it's a C-minus.Reuse content