A lecturer forbidden from marking students down for not showing sufficient evidence of research is calling on academics to be more stringent when marking.
Leo Enticknap warned first-year media history students at Teesside University that assessments citing only web sources would receive a 20 per cent score.
"In July 2006, I was told that this contravened university regulations," Dr Enticknap said. Assignments failed for that reason were re-marked, he added.
A Teesside spokesman said Dr Enticknap had not consulted programme managers before imposing the policy. "As this decision failed to comply with university procedures, any student who felt that they had been disadvantaged would have had strong grounds for appeal," he added.
Dr Enticknap, who now works at Leeds University, said institutions let students down if they passed them without insisting that they produced serious research and good written English. Some of the work submitted by Teesside's first-years was so poorly written that the students "would stand no chance of securing graduate-level employment", he said.
The lecturer said that some universities, especially post-92 institutions, feared that criticising students might lead them to drop out.
"There were students at Teesside who would have graduated with the same classification had they been at Oxbridge," he said. "That they reached that stage, having starting with generally weaker entry qualifications than their counterparts in traditional universities, is a testament to the dedication and professionalism of many academics in the post-92 sector. But in other cases, grade inflation definitely took place relative to students'
work I assessed at Exeter and Leeds," he said.
He said that post-92 universities must crack down on student errors so their graduates had the same skills as those from old universities. "If achieving that necessitates accepting a medium-term increase in the dropout rate, that may be a price worth paying."
The Teesside spokesman said: "A report last September from the external examiner shows fulsome praise for the rigour, accuracy and fairness of our procedures."
Barry Stierer, director of the Centre for Higher Education Research at Westminster University, said correction alone would not help students develop as writers.
"The writing demanded of students has become more complex in recent years, with more varied assessments and fewer opportunities for individual tutorial support. The only sustainable solution is properly funded support for students' writing development."
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