First-class degrees on wane

July 4, 1997

THE NUMBER of students gaining top honours is falling, according to statistics published today.

But the male/female divide remains, with 7.7 per cent of male students who achieved degrees in 1995/96 awarded a first, compared with just 6.1 per cent of women. This compares with 9 per cent and 7 per cent in the previous year.

Women are still more likely than men to achieve an upper second at 45.1 per cent compared with 36.5 per cent. But these figures also show a drop when compared with 1993/94 when 51 per cent of men and 59 per cent of women gained upper seconds. And women are catching up when it comes to gaining thirds. In 1993/94, men were twice as likely to be awarded a third as women. Now, while nearly 20 per cent of men gain thirds, nearly 14 per cent of women do too.

Students of mathematical science achieved the highest proportion of both first and third-class honours.

The figures, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, show that the student body grew by 9.8 per cent in the year to 1995/96. The rise mostly comprises postgraduate numbers which increased 10.4 per cent. More than half of the total were women and 11 per cent came from overseas. Of these, 29.3 per cent were from Asia.

More than 13 per cent of first-year undergraduates from the UK, whose ethnicity was known, were from ethnic minorities.

A levels or their equivalent are the main qualification held on entry by undergraduates and just 2.2 per cent of UK students begin a degree with no formal qualifications.

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