Her Final results were a severe blow. I'm not saying that my daughter did it on purpose – a student merely does his or her best. I'm not saying she did it deliberately to annoy her parents or siblings, it's just that I take it as a personal criticism. Disappointment isn't quite the word but I'm most put out; it would have been nice to receive some kind of advance warning. She's got a First.

Her Final results were a severe blow. I'm not saying that my daughter did it on purpose – a student merely does his or her best. I'm not saying she did it deliberately to annoy her parents or siblings, it's just that I take it as a personal criticism. Disappointment isn't quite the word but I'm most put out; it would have been nice to receive some kind of advance warning. She's got a First.

This has never been a first-class household. My wife achieved a 2.1, which is a highly respectable degree, and so did our elder daughter, who went on to an MA. Our son, being more of the partying type, got a 2.2, which is far beyond my own achievements. Thanks to my work on the student paper, I had a consistent Third at the end of every undergraduate year. (Kind friends have suggested that it is all a matter of grade inflation, that is, her First today is the equivalent of my Third three decades ago. But I'm not quite stupid enough to believe that.)

A First makes my daughter a different species, a cuckoo in the nest. It's like having a cat which suddenly starts barking and becomes a champion at Crufts. You would want to get its DNA checked.

I'm not saying our younger daughter isn't smart. When she showed me her dissertation, I didn't understand a word: yes, it was that clever. She is a far greater credit to her Inner London comprehensive than I was to my fee-paying academy in East Anglia. It's just that her coursework always pointed to a 2.1. Thanks to her coursework modules and dissertations, she went into her last set of exams with a 2.1 under her Armani belt. She could, like one of my contemporaries, have announced: "Hm, nothing here for me, I'm afraid," and sauntered out: still a 2.1. It was, she told us, merely a matter of where she ended up in the Upper Second spectrum. Has there been a mistake? Can you appeal against marks which are too high? Clearly there was some slack in the system. Deceit may have been involved; presumably she didn't want to get our hopes up. In this I applaud her. I have had my hopes dashed before, over another set of results: my own.

My father taught – and sometimes was an examiner – at the university where I was (allegedly) reading English. I once overheard him reassuring one of his students, whose Final papers had been marked but whose results hadn't been announced: "You'll be all right."

"You mean," I asked afterwards, impressed, "he's got a First?"

"No," answered my father. "He's got a Third." That was the good news. The lad in question spent all his time directing student plays and the examiners were pushed to give him a degree at all. "How pathetic," I thought, "to be pleased to get the lowest grade for an Honours degree."

Then my own first-year results were pinned up in the third-class list and I stopped being quite so snooty. At the end of two more years spent writing for the student paper, I found myself with similar worries to those of the young thespian. Before my Finals results were announced, I asked my father if anyone had actually failed to be awarded a degree – such as his son. "You're okay," he muttered. "You've got a Third – congratulations!"

Thirty-plus years earlier, my father had got his First; it was a case of academic riches to rags in one generation. Now my daughter has taken us back to intellectual riches again. Three decades after I disgraced it, she has restored the family honour. Yes, on second thoughts I can live with her achievement.

My father, now sadly gone to the Great Examining Board in the Sky, would have been impressed that his grandchild has inherited his brain cells. Yet what my daughter has done is merely to match his achievement. What if she had actually beaten it? I don't want to seem grudging, but a starred First would really have been worth breaking out the champagne for.

The writer graduated with a third class degree in English from Cambridge University in 1965

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