First class degree numbers double

 

The number of students graduating with a first-class degree has more than doubled in 10 years, with one in six now gaining top honours, figures show.

Official statistics reveal that a record 61,605 graduates left university with a first last summer, with the numbers soaring in the past five years.

There has also been a rise in the numbers of students gaining an upper-second, according to figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The latest figures show that two-thirds of students left university in 2012 with a first or 2.1.

This new figure is a 45 per cent increase from 2008, when 41,150 students got a first, and up 136 per cent from 2002, when 26,100 graduates received the highest degree grade.

There has been a rise in the student population in the last 10 years, but the number of those obtaining a first appears to haven risen further, meaning that the 200-year-old degree classification system has been called 'barely fit for purpose', according to the head of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR).

Carl Gilleard said that the system is being used more and more often by employers as an 'automatic cut-off point'.

"Over three quarters of AGR members require graduates to have at least a 2:1, yet it is widely accepted that the degree classification system is barely fit for purpose," he said. "As a recruitment tool it is a blunt and inconsistent measure, and so it is a shame it has become so heavily relied upon by employers."

Mr Gilleard said that the AGR backed the new school-style Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear). The Hear is a detailed record of a student's university achievement, which is given alongside a final degree award.

It can include more information on academic courses, such as module marks, as well as details of volunteering work, any prizes a student has won, additional qualifications that can be verified by the university and any other positions held, such as the captaincy of the hockey team.

More than half of UK universities have confirmed they are to bring in the electronic record, similar to the reports children are given at the end of the school year, with more expected to follow.

Mr Gilleard said: "Whilst the Hear is new territory for employers, it is one that the AGR believes will offer many benefits - providing employers with a far richer and broader range of information on their business's potential employees.

"I have noticed how it is acting as a catalyst for change, with students better able to articulate what they have to offer to employers and considering the skills they have developed more carefully."

HESA's new figures show that there has been a 16 per cent rise in the number of students obtaining a degree between 2008 and 2012.

The statistics also show that 68 per cent of the degrees gained by women in 2012 were a first or 2.1, compared with 63 per cent for men.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said "The proportion of firsts and 2:1s awarded has increased in recent years, reflecting increases in entry levels. Performance in A-level and other examinations have improved, so it is unsurprising that degree results would also show an improvement.

"However, the sector has recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument, hence the recommendation last year that, from autumn 2012, all students entering undergraduate degrees will leave with a Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear), as well as a degree certificate."

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said: "We are encouraging universities to implement the Higher Education Achievement Report because it has long been acknowledged that the degree classification doesn't give a detailed description of student achievement. This gives employers a much fuller description of students' skills and expertise."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Ed Miliband and David Cameron are neck and neck in the polls
election 2015Armando Iannucci: on how British politics is broken
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power