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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  • Law degrees are still challenging

    I graduated in Law in 2001 and as I recall about a quarter of students dropped out after the first year despite high A-Level grades. However, I wouldn't say that the university exams at that stage were being dumbed down in any way.

    At the end of the course only a handful of students were awarded firsts but they were well known for being extremely bright. 40% or less got a 2:1 and we had to work incredibly hard - it was certainly not handed out on a plate.

    It was a major battle to get good marks and the standards expected were high. By far the majority of students received 2:2s or thirds.

    I wonder if any of the improvements are linked to the introduction of coursework essays? My degree was 100% exam based unless you did an optional dissertation of 15,000 words in your final year which counted for an eighth of the grade awarded.

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  • England v South Africa

    The proximate cause of international law firms recruiting at Stellenbosch University South Africa is probably due to the high standard of the institution. The facts are that high quality students are produced by high quality education and not so much 'traditional' institutions misrepresenting themselves as such.

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  • London Met univeristy

    I graduated with a 2.1 LL.B Business Law from London Guildhall (now Met) in 1994, when it was by then a university. The standard after the 1st year was very, very high. I challenge anyone to say that the exams were easy.

    We were tested on practical problem solving and we had to get it right within severe tiem limits. Yes, there were the usual essay questions and optional 3rd year dissertation.

    However, the course was very rigorous. Nowadays when I see contracts from the 'wonders' who come out of 'better' universities I despair. The discrimination shown to me as a 'Poly' graduate was based on sheer ignorance not to mention snobbism.

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  • The Diplock Paradox

    Perhaps the fuss about qualifications will finally come full circle; a degree-based recruitment system which started off as a filter to help firms' HR departments not drowning in a sea of thousands of applications would have screened out of the profession Lords Diplock (2:2) and Halsbury (a 4th!). Now GCSEs are unfailable, A Levels no better and 2:1s come free in the newspaper, perhaps we'll get back to recruiting lawyers who are actually able as opposed to merely qualified.

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  • 1st: 2:1 or third? its not be all end all

    at end of day, the classification of degree class is just a rough guide of the calibre of student - it does not bear any reflection of the quality of the student churned out at universities these days - without the right work attitude and ethics, one will still not cut it at private practice. having said that, private practice itself doesn't define a successful legal profession judging by the huge numbers going in-house nowadays. You will be surprised at the handful of 2:2 and 3rds who work harder, think smarter and are more creative at solving issues than the supposed superior 1sts and 2:2. You see these sorts from time to time inhouse.

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  • Hm.

    2.1s need to be split. Job done.

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  • Lies, Damned Lies

    The methodology used for the "inflation" is somewhat suspect and rather misleading. The person who put that figure together is simply comparing the number of 1sts and 2:1's given in 1997 to the number achieved by students in 2007. So if 5 out of 12 students got top degrees in 1997 and 30 out of 80 got top degrees in 2007 this guy is saying that "inflation" = 500% which is, quite frankly, nonsense and certainly not newsworthy. Beware Bucks New - if 2 of your students get a first and a 2:1 next year your "inflation" will be infinite and you won't get any credit for having inspired hard working students to achieve the best possible result.
    This is a farce.

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  • Re: Damned Lies

    The comment - 'Lies, Damned Lies' posted by 'and statistics' below is based on a misunderstanding of the methodology which is explained on the qed website.

    The inflation figure was calculated by comparing the PERCENTAGE of firsts and upper seconds in 1997 with that in 2007 and not the absolute number.

    So in the hypothetical example s/he provides the percentage in 1997 - 41.7% - is compared with the percentage in 2007 - 37.5% - and the change (41.7% - 37.5% = 4.2%) expresses as a percentage of the 1997 figure. In this case, a decrease of 10.1%.

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  • Lies Damned Lies

    Acknowledged, Ed, but what I was really driving at was the fact that the hypothesis is weak and that there is no effort to provide a more meaningful correlation - perhaps between UCAS points required for entry to a course and degrees awarded. In statistics you would also tend to ignore data that provided such extreme results precisely to avoid what will know doubt happen to Bucks New next year. All the variables mentioned by the author simply require more scientific treatment before being presented

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  • Of course they are worth less

    The Law firms have declared that they will only hire people with firsts and 2:1s, this means that the law colleges which are primarily vocational, rather than academic, have decided to abdicate the responsibility for decision making and just award 2:1s to everyone who isn't subnormal.

    Obviously to solve this and the problem with A-level inflation is to assume that the top 1% of students get 1sts and the next 20% get 2:1s.

    The same would apply to A levels and create genuine competition.

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  • London Met

    An interesting fact about London Met is one of its lecturers won the Oxford University Press Lawteacher of the year award this year and the uni also had another one of its lecturers on the shortlist.

    Anybody who knows the higher education landscape will acknowledge that London Met is a very different university to many as it specialises in catering to students from poor social and academic backgrounds. Many of the students lack the skills due to the previous education they've received, so its no surprise that they fare badly in comparison to Exeter.

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  • Get rid of Training Contracts

    What a load of rubbish! The key and overriding concern here is to get rid of Training Contracts and allow those in Paralegal roles to qualify after 2 years of experience. The restrictive straitjacket approach is backward looking and is only designed to protect Those already in the profession.

    Further, I know a lot of people with thirds who are far better and more capable lawyers that those with firsts.

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  • Your Having a Laugh

    Further it is my understanding at Sheffield you get open book exams where you have seen the papers first this didn't happen at Teesside so the percentages posted are largely incorrect. Moreover, where are Cambridge and Leeds in these figures?

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  • People with thirds...

    A popular phrase when I was young (read: 20 years ago) was "people with 2:1s work for people with 2:2s, and those with 1sts go on to teach their children."

    I think the point being made was that while academic achievement is important, so is having social skills, other interests and being engaged in other activities than just a thesis on something probably fairly obscure that won't mean much to anyone two years down the line.

    Though of course this principal can be abused by those who simply spent their undergraduate years watching Neighbours, it's important not to forget how true it is nonetheless.

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  • Its not education only

    10 yrs ago world records were set in the olympics,the same records are being broken by school kids at training,e.g swimming,tennis and athletics.

    Are you saying the 100m sprinters are now running a shorter 100m?

    Things have changed,so are the LLBs.

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  • I've just started studying law at Birmingham university. It seems to me that a First is basically impossible and a 2.2 is not good enough to do anything with. Therefore everyone I know wants a 2.1 and most of us will get one. Surely there should me more room for manouvre! How are we going to be compared when we have the same result?!

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  • Having recently graduated from uni, achieving a 2.1 in law, I can indeed confirm that a law degree these days is a bit of a piss take.

    The standards are far, far below most law degrees on the continent- in depth, duration -- in just about every single way.

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  • To Anon @ 6:14pm above,

    Which university did you attend? I secured a 2.1 from Bristol University in 2006 and this was far from a "bit of a piss take" - in fact it was very tough.

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  • I went to Manchester.

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  • It doesn't really matter what degree you have in law.
    The point is the legal profession is shrinking as outsourcing becomes the norm.
    Most current law students will be lucky if they end up as paralegals.
    Start looking for a job in India.

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  • In the early 1960s when I graduated in Engineering half the class got "the General Degree", half the remainder got Thirds, and the remainder got Seconds not given as 2.1s or 2.2s. A First was given for the truly exceptional student and between 1945 and 1963 only 3 had been given out. (Two became world renowned engineers and the other a real waster...).
    Having done the Bar relatively late in life I have concluded that smooth and confident delivery does not always mean mastery of the subject matter, and that the law is prone to giving prominence to delivery. It is of course difficult to have an objective or absolute standard of attainment with law, either in practice or in study/training. Ten years after qualification possession of a First or whatever is not truly relevant anyway.
    Rampant oversupply will sort the sheep from the goats quickly enough in the coming years.

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  • Of course they are worth less now. For starters there's been a massive increase in the number of law students, and among those students there's been a massive increase in those receiving 2.1s or firsts. Which frankly devalues the degrees massively - scarcity in the market equals value. And a lot of the lower ranked (and universities we wouldn't recruit from, frankly) universities just started giving everyone a first, claiming it was the same as one from the higher ranked unis, and the better unis felt under massive pressure to do the same. It is a shame for everyone.

    It also leads into the huge problem now of "I've got a first class law degree, I must be guaranteed a training contract/pupillage. Mustn't I?" Hahahahaha.

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  • I think people saying law is easy are missing what the table is saying - look at Nottingham, which is one of the very top rated Unis. It gives only half of its students 2:1s, whilst other, worse Universities award a far higher percentage a 2:1. In turn, their degrees are treated equal as far as the "2:1 required to apply to this firm" is concerned, despite the fact that someone could work harder, be more intelligent and better at law and still only get a 2:2 from Nottingham. It's a disgrace.

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  • Perhaps everyone just works a lot harder nowadays and takes a degree seriously rather than as a pleasant interlude.

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