Fall in first-class degrees after crackdown on pandemic grade inflation

The number of first-class degrees awarded has fallen for the first time after a crackdown on grade inflation during the Covid pandemic. It marks the first time that the

HESA has recorded a fall in the number of first-class degrees awarded since it was founded in 1993. However, the percentage is still higher than it was before the

pandemic. It comes after universities in England pledged last July to reverse degree inflation, following the introduction of policies to mitigate the impact of disruption

from Covid including open-book exams. Universities UK and GuildHE promised that by 2023 they would bring the proportion of upper second and first-class degrees back in line

with pre-pandemic levels. In 2021/22, 32 per cent of undergraduate degrees were awarded a first-class honours classification, a fall of four percentage points from 36 per

cent from the year before, the HESA said. However, 46 per cent of students were awarded upper second-class degrees in 2021/22, the same proportion as in 2020/21. The

total number of higher education students increased by four per cent to  2,862,620, while there was a two per cent increase in first year enrolments. Susan Lapworth, the

chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS), welcomed the reduction in first class degrees. The OfS had previously warned that grade inflation may negatively impact

students - a warning echoed by Michelle Donelan, the then education minister.'Welcome decrease towards pre-pandemic levels' Ms Lapworth said: "Today’s figures show a welcome

decrease back towards pre-pandemic levels in the proportion of first class degrees awarded to students graduating in the 2021-22 academic year.