Does this mean that UK students are getting brainier?

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  • Or are universities dumbing down?

    Words by Izabella Harrington

    University is often branded as the ‘best years of your life’; a time filled with crowds of new people just as excited as you to endure three blurry years of partying, branching out of your usual social circle, and making reckless decisions. It’s such a an established stereotype, we can even predict the nine types of students you’ll meet in Freshers Week.

    Yet new research suggests that today’s students are doing more studying (and less partying) than ever before. Analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency data by the Press Association found that students’ results are reaching an all time high, with nearly one in four graduates achieving first class degree honours in 2015-2016.

    The Guardian reported that in 2015-16, 50 institutions gave at least one-quarter of degrees the top first class degree grade, in comparison to 12 institutions and two respectively in 2010-11.

    Interestingly, this rise in first class degrees corresponds with the increase in tuition fees. Which begs the question –  are universities awarding more first class degrees to boost their rankings and attract more students? Or are students working harder?

    Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), told The Guardian that ‘Some rise is not unreasonable, given that schools have got better and some universities have increased their entry tariffs, so they’re getting better quality students.’

    However Nick also believes that students may be more motivated to work harder thanks to the rise in fees: ‘as you wander round universities, the student union bars are empty and the libraries and working environments are full. They’re not putting in more hours, but they are more productive in the hours they are doing.’

    So perhaps students are simply being more productive with their time – and with fees as high as £9,250 a year you can hardly blame them for wanting their money’s worth.


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