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Rise in student numbers leads to lower marking standard

ByMagdalena Liedl

Nov 4, 2014

Preliminary results of the Times Higher Education (THE) Workplace Survey 2015 suggest that university lecturers and professors think the quality of education is in delicate, as universities across Britain accept more students.

So far, THE has interviewed almost 1,000 members of the academic staff from universities across the UK, of whom a third said that their universities accepted too any students, leading to a decline in overall education standards.

This year, universities were allowed to recruit 30,000 students more than in previous years and from next year, the government will remove the cap on student numbers altogether.

As a result, a record number of students have been admitted to British universities this academic year. 396,990 students have been accepted for the year 2014/2015, a rise of three per cent compared to last year.

The BBC reported that in some universities’ accommodation, students were forced to share single rooms or to move into beds in breakfast rooms.

According to THE’s survey results, academic staff are accusing university managers of, as a result of the raising of the student numbers cap, accepting more students than the universities are able to handle, in order to maximise incomes from student fees.

One engineering and technology academic based at an English university told THE that university managers were “money-obsessed” and followed a “culture of rack ‘em, pack ‘em and stack ‘em” in order to drive up funding levels.

Forty per cent of the interviewed academics told THE that they felt pressured by their university management to give high grades to their students.

Marking at their university was not “hard enough”, one professor told THE. They added: “Too many students are getting a first; 33 per cent in my subject”.

The interviewees claimed that the universities were trying to climb up in education rankings by awarding record numbers of first-class-degrees.

Indeed, numbers by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that more students graduate today with a first class degree than ever. Last year, more than 18 percent of graduates finished their studies with a first class degree – compared with only 12 per cent in the academic year of 2007/2008.

A spokesman for the universities’ organising body, Universities UK, told The Student that they did not want to react to the findings of the Times’ survey, as the numbers were only preliminary results, saying that they wished to wait for the final study before offering a response.

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