Leading Article: The answer to grade inflation

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The select committee's inquiry into standards in higher education may have angered MPs and put university vice chancellors on the spot, but there is doubt about whether anything will come of one of its main recommendations. That is that there should be a strengthened Quality Assurance Agency to check up on standards in our universities and to ensure that a degree in, say, history from Oxford Brookes is comparable with a degree in chemistry from Oxford.

To check up on degree comparability, you need a mechanism and the only mechanism is degree classifications. Yet everyone knows that degree classifications are flawed and riddled with grade inflation. The best solution is undoubtedly to do away with degree classifications entirely, as Bob Burgess and his committee would like, and to replace them with some kind of record of achievement for each graduate, showing what they can do and giving their grades in each module.

The Burgess proposal is being put into effect slowly through a number of trials and the aim is to have a new system up and running by 2012. Let's hope that will put an end to grade inflation.