Inflating an age-old debate 2

May 5, 2006

As Tim Birkhead points out (Working Knowledge, April 28), grade inflation makes it difficult to distinguish, prior to interview, between the truly outstanding and the competent but mediocre.

The focus so far in considering the alleged devaluation of A levels and degrees has been on the resultant failure to recognise the most able and to weed out the undeserving.

But there is the additional dimension that, paradoxically, this failure to discriminate at the younger end of the spectrum is likely to engender unfair discrimination at the senior end. How will older job applicants appear on paper in terms of qualifications when theirs were gained at a time when more challenging standards made clutches of As and firsts or upper seconds much harder to come by?

Imminent government age-discrimination legislation will not guard against older applicants being rejected in favour of the young on grounds of apparently poorer academic achievement.

Jenny C. Ryan Manchester Metropolitan University

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