Law fellow blames grade inflation on harder working students and tuition fees

Juliette Bretan 13 January 2018

Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education and Law Professor Graham Virgo has defended Cambridge from accusations of artificial grade inflation, citing evidence for “students are working harder.”

Following the release of data on Thursday showing that number of Firsts awarded by universities is now greater than the number of 2:2s nationwide, Professor Virgo said to The Daily Telegraph: “Students know that in many sectors, if they graduate with a 2:ii, their chance of getting employment in that sector is substantially reduced.”

“We do not necessarily need to say that grade inflation is a bad thing. We have analysed it and the evidence is that students are working harder.”

The Downing Fellow went on to attribute some of the blame to tuition fees: “The motivation for students to work harder and get more out of their studies is party [sic] tuition fees, partly because of the criteria that employers are imposing.”

Prof Virgo also gave evidence to a Lords' economic committee meeting hearing, rubbishing claims that universities inflate grades to maintain their positions on student satisfaction surveys.

“If we were desperate to do really well in a student satisfaction survey, we might decide that we would be easier on students and give them an easier time at university so that they were more satisfied.”

“We are not doing that, we want to maintain standards.”

Some have accused Virgo of attempting to explain away the phenomena of grade inflation, while others are calling for a fixed proportion of students to receive certain degree classifications, similar to the system employed in setting GCSE and A Level grade boundaries. This is likely to prompt fears from many Cambridge students of receiving lower grades due to relatively poor performance compared to rest of the cohort, when nationally speaking they perform highly.

TCS have contacted the university for comment.