Inflating an age-old debate 1

May 5, 2006

Inflating grades is not new in universities ("This racket demands you surrender your integrity", Opinion, April 28). As an undergraduate at a civic university in the 1960s, I took philosophy as a first-year subsidiary subject, and passed. This was despite doing little work and answering only one question - out of three required - in the logic paper, and not much more on the main paper. If the pass mark was 40 per cent, the little I wrote must have been near perfect. It wasn't. Other students were similarly surprised, and the rumour went round that the initial failure rate was so bad that marks were doubled.

What has changed is the introduction of increased transparency through accountability. But it may have gone too far in replacing standards with standardisation. My research shows widespread concern about creativity being stifled in favour of conformity as senior managers respond to pressures from the Government and its agencies. But at least the issue is being debated and linked to quality of teaching and approaches to assessment.

Ian McNay Greenwich University

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