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Final year students should sit national exam to combat grade inflation, says think tank

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UK policy think-tank Reform has published a report proposing to tackle degree inflation by requiring students at every university to take a standardised assessment at the end of their degree.

Under their proposal, higher education providers would only be able to offer courses formally recognised by a 'Designated Assessment Body.' The body will be able to set the standards across a subject with final-year students sitting national exams.

Degree grades would be capped at 10% of students attaining a first, 40% an upper second and 10% a third. 

The think tank said individual universities should lose the right to select their student's final degree grade. 

Academics and students were unenthusiastic about the proposal.

Oli, a postgraduate student at Bristol University, said:

"This kind of standardisation will erode institutional independence as well as that of individual courses and academics who tailor their teaching for the benefits of students as well as their educational and intellectual enrichment, and will reduce the quality of teaching and research while increasing pressure on academics by the imposition of further "excellence frameworks"."

Professor Jason Dittmer, Professor of Political Geography at UCL, also criticised Reform's suggestions, saying:

"The call for national assessment is really a call for a national curriculum, which would have vast consequences far beyond remedying grade inflation. 

"It would entail bureaucrats with little understanding of the state of the art in each discipline deciding course content, and consequently what kind of researchers would be hired to teach.

"Currently, universities offer distinctive programmes based on their research specialities. This proposal would flatten that diversity into a standard offer, reducing student choice.

"A less intrusive step would be to shift away from the high-stakes degree classification system, where borderlines and the algorithms that govern them decide student futures, towards a GPA or similar system." 

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