Universities churn out record numbers of top class LLB students

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  • Not in my day

    It's virtually impossible not to get a 2:1 these days - that wasn't the case when I was at university 25 years ago. I think there's definitely been a slight lowering of standards. As such we'd now be a lot more sniffy about candidates applying for training contracts whose overall average was around 62%-63%.

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  • Degree inflation

    It is not true that all universities have inflated their awards of the years.

    The complete data on the QED law website show that there is a hell of a lot of variation in what is called 'degree inflation'.

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  • no more 2:2's

    when I arrived at Exeter University in 1975 Professor Parker informed the 100 or so undergratuates beginning their LLB course (rather proudly I thought) that no student had achieved a 1st class degree in the past 5 years and it was unlikely any of us would either.

    However a lower second from Exeter was nothing to be ashamed of and indeed several leading partners in City firms had that distinction.As I recall he was wrong. One of our number did get a First.

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  • It is just evening things up...

    When I went to Bristol University, out of 175 law students, only 4 were expected to get 1sts, and about 40% were expected to get 2:1s (my brother was at Birmingham and in his year zero 1sts were awarded).

    But in other faculties (Psychology I seemed to remember being a bad one), about half the students got firsts, and the rest got 2:1s even though you only needed three Cs at A-Level to get in!

    It was about time they equalised the degree classes, so I am not too sorry about "grade inflation" for law degrees, even if it means my 2:1 looks shabbier by comparison.

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  • Forcefed the answers

    A major contributing factor to the increase in 2:1s and 1st degress is that most students are being taught only what they need to know to pass the exam!

    All other material is ignored or skipped through in a hurried manner. The consequence of this is that whilst a student looks good on paper, in the practical world, most will fail to use initiative and link up the legal issues.

    Some tutors provide their students with model answers and specific revision questions that resemble the exam questions. Who wouldn't get a minimum 2:1 if spoon-fed like this?

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  • You cannot win

    This is an old chestnut, "of course, in my day, we 'ad it tough.." You can't win - certain people say that if more students are getting 2:1s and Firsts this means that exams have become easier, and yet the same people say that it is evidence of declining standards if results get worse.

    It is, of course, not necessarily the case that if more people pass an exam then the exam must be easier. Do they really think that universities of any description deliberately dumb down their courses to produce dubious graduates?

    In my experience most universities are at pains to ensure that standards are maintained with external moderation, for example, and in some cases industry review.

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  • It's not just LLBs

    The plain fact is that is that it's not just LLBs that are getting easier, but GCSEs and A-levels too.

    This may sound like just an old fogie's rant, but there is a reason that, for instance, Oxford and Cambridge both have to put straight A A-level students on remedial courses over the summer before they let them begin maths degrees, while 30 years ago students didn't have to do the courses even when they didn't have 3 'A' grades to get in.

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  • Grade Inflation

    I have just looked at the QED LAW research as a whole and it is very interesting.

    In addition to the inflation figures for 1987 to 2007, the website shows the inflation between 1997 and 2007 after all the “new universities” hit the scene.

    Although the ‘top ten’ in terms of highest inflation is predominantly composed of new universities, University College London – which I attended - is on the list. Where will it end?

    Fortunately unlike the kind of inflation facing Alistair Darling, there is a ceiling on the level to which degrees can be inflated. And when all LLB graduates get firsts there will be something else to worry about.

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  • Bench-mark against offshore law schools

    In most Aussie law schools (at least in the late 80's), you had to write a 10,000 word thesis to obtain an Honours degree.

    I was astonished to discover that at least one so called Honours law school here equates a fail with a third = you failed your law degree in Oz. 65% is the bottom line for a third in Oz. I certainly think the standards here are lower than in Oz, which probably explains the number of Aussie lawyers gainfully employed here.

    However, it all comes out in the wash, i.e. if you can't cut it in private practice. However, the culling should be done at law school.

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  • Re 'It's not just LLBs' (17.01)

    While I can offer no personal experience relating to GCSEs, my husband is in the admissions department of a red brick university where he has worked for more than 20 years, and has a lot of experience relating to 'A' levels.

    His experience is that these days it is increasingly difficult to choose between admission applications on the basis of A-level grades because almost no-one is admitted that does not have three (or more) 'A's.

    However this does not mean that all candidates are equally good, and huge differences in intellect between different students are masked by the fact that both have identical grades.

    This is problematic because it makes to choose without interviewing every straight-A student individually, which is logistically impossible, meaning that some candidates inevitably receive places that would be better deserved by others that are rejected.

    This problem is not one that existed when he began his role in the early 1980s.

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