Recently, The Times published an article about the institutions that most likely to award degrees to those who take the final exams on their degrees. It includes a list of such universities as University of East London, Arts University Bournemouth, Edinburgh, Sunderland, Worcester, Abertay, Oxford, Surrey, Durham, and Liverpool.
However, this article looks rather like shaming than a recommendation. The “shaming list” includes a number of prestigious universities that awarded literally 100% of final-year students. There are eleven such universities in total, including members of the Russel Group, and also a number of universities where such a figure was 99%.
Is it a Bad Thing?
The incredible pass rate raised debates about changes in the university standards. Such standards are always considered declining, especially by those who stay critical about the educational system of the United Kingdom. Moreover, recent rumors about undergraduates who achieved First Class degree were used by many people as an indicator of falling standards.
Such a position regarding the university degree standards is rather a healthy thing. This position is also explained by the fact that modern universities tend to consider themselves as service providers, while their students are considered clients. If we take into account the cost of education in the UK, we can reasonably conclude that the degree at the end is the least what such customers are expecting from their investments. And, of course, no service wants to receive bad feedback from unsatisfied clients.
Is It Really Easier to Study These Days?
It’s hard to say for sure because this issue is a little more complicated than the bald statistic describes it. The point is that the structure of degree courses has changed much more significantly than the standards of universities. The article mentioned above measures the 100% pass rate among students who take their final exams, but the concept of such statistics seems to be outdated for many universities. A final exam at the end of a three-year course could determine the entire degree before, but now there are many degree courses that are completely modular. Marks for the first semester of a certain year are equally weighted with the same marks of the whole course.
Thus, there is nothing special about the final exams in many different universities. They are aimed just to reflect the performance of the student for a particular module. If such exams were passed bad, it doesn’t mean that the overall performance of a certain student is bad. Moreover, this modular system provides instructors and students with more detailed information on the progress compared to the old degree programs which were entirely based on the final exams. Now students who have problems can be identified in advance and so take necessary help, or be placed on probation, or even advised to drop out in certain cases.
Previously, students could do almost nothing during three years, not getting the knowledge necessary for the final exams. For such a reason, many students predictably failed. Given the changes in the educational system, in case a university’s academic structures do their job, no students must enter the final exams being unprepared for it.
A Duty of Care
Everyone in the society should care about maintaining high standards of education, including students, employees, and university structures. But is entering the final exams without a virtual assurance of getting a degree really necessary? Is it a kind of rigor? In fact, it’s something completely opposite: universities are unable to identify students who need additional support and so they fail to provide a qualitative educational experience. We think that low failure rates are rather a reason for a celebration than for suspicious critique. They only illustrate how universities manage to monitor the progress of each student and provide great educational service. Thus, maybe you should check that list from The Times to get some good recommendations.