Grade hyperinflation

August 13, 2009

Every year, there is a pseudo-debate about whether or not there has been grade inflation at A level. The answer is that A levels have been devalued to an extent that is scarcely believable.

I came across two numbers that illustrate this: according to Robert Anderson's British Universities Past and Present, in 1980 there were 47 universities in the UK with 282,960 students - probably an intake of about 80,000 undergraduates a year.

According to Wikipedia, 783,878 people passed A levels in 2005, and 22.8 per cent of papers were A graded. This corresponds to 178,724 students with one A. But let's say that half of the students with an A grade actually got straight As - that equals about 80,000.

So, if my assumptions are correct, there were about the same number of university students in 1980 as received straight As in 2005 - which is to say that nearly everybody who went to university in 1980 would get straight As nowadays. Now, is that grade inflation or hyperinflation?

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