Degree classifications in the UK are "arbitrary and unreliable", the leader of a watchdog claimed today.
Doubts about the consistency of students' assessments, continuing difficulties with degree classification and "departures from institutional practice" have been exposed in the report by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA).
Drawing on 59 audit reports of universities and higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland, the report said: "Critical recommendations outweigh identifiable good practice in the audit reports.
"Worries include doubts in some cases about the double-marking and/or moderation of students' summative assessments; continuing difficulties with degree classification; departures from institutional practice in the way staff in departments and schools work with external examiners; and generally weak use of statistical data to monitor and quality assure the assessments of all students and degree classifications."
The papers also find weaknesses in the arrangements of some institutions for detecting and dealing with plagiarism and for providing feedback on students' assessed work, including feedback to international students.
Peter Williams, chief executive of the QAA, told the BBC: "There is a belief from some overseas students that if they pay their fees, they will get a degree
"We have to make clear that does not operate here."
He warned that the use of agents to recruit overseas students could mean lowering standards.