Even allowing for the self-selecting nature of our survey on academic standards, the number of academics prepared to admit to passing students they believe they should have failed is shocking. More still judge that large numbers of students are enrolled with no realistic prospect of achieving a degree. There is no denying the pressures on universities and their staff to recruit and retain as many students as possible, but the whole purpose of higher education is called into question if basic standards are not maintained. Grade inflation is one thing; this is about the undermining of a system admired throughout the world.
Academics resent regulators such as the Quality Assurance Agency and are suspicious of bodies such as the Higher Education Academy, but someone has to act as the gatekeeper for national standards. The evidence of our survey suggests that, for all the unions' efforts, too many academics see no way out when the pressure is on. It will be a test of the academy, in particular, whether it can provide that avenue and act when it sees abuses.
The process may be uncomfortable for a body that is trying to establish itself, but it is an essential task.