A NEW report has found that the proportion of students received first class grades at the University of Bradford has more than tripled in eight years.

The rise in the number of first class degrees across the country has prompted fears of grade inflation and a devaluing of university qualifications and students’ work.

The University of Bradford said its grading systems did not match the rest of the sector and has since been changed, which explains the rise.

The figures, released in a report by the Office for Students, said that between the 2010/11 and 2018/19 academic years, nationally the proportion of students achieving first class honours had risen by 88 per cent - from 15.7 per cent in 2010/11 to 29.5 per cent in 2018/19.

In Bradford, the proportion rose from 10.8 per cent to 35.1 per cent, one of the highest increases in the country.

The report concluded: “There is still strong evidence of significant unexplained sector attainment increases between 2010-11 and 2018-19.”

Nearly three-quarters of the 147 providers included in the analysis saw “unexplained” increases in first class degrees between 2017-18 and 2018-19, the analysis found, but the rate of increase has slowed in recent years.

Overall, 29.5 per cent of students graduated in the summer of 2019 with a first class degree but, of that figure, nearly half (14.3 percentage points) of it could not be explained by changes in the graduate population.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said: ““This data shows that the increase in the proportion of first class degrees awarded in 2018-19 has slowed compared to previous years, with a small increase from last year in the percentage of first class degrees which cannot be explained by other factors.

“While this may indicate that the brakes have been applied, it is clear that grade inflation remains a significant and pressing issue in English higher education.

“Unexplained grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in higher education, and devaluing the hard work of students. Degrees must stand the test of time, which is why the OfS will continue to address this issue at both a sector-wide and individual university level.

“Where we have concerns about unexplained grade inflation at any particular university or college, we are prepared to intervene to protect the integrity of the degree awarding system for all students.”

A spokesperson for the University of Bradford said: “The University of Bradford is fully committed to maintaining the highest academic standards.

“In the base year used in these measures, the method used to calculate degree classifications by the University was out of step with sector approaches, leading to significantly below benchmark levels of first and upper second class degrees, placing our students at a relative disadvantage to students at other institutions.

“The University reviewed and amended its assessment regulations, taking into account sector wide approaches to address this concern and bring the approach for Bradford students in line with the sector, which accounts for the increase in that particular year.

“Since that time, increases in ‘good honours’ have been in line with sector norms and driven by active measures taken by the University to enhance its learning, teaching and student experience, increase access to education and to improve attainment.

“The University of Bradford’s new five-year Access & Participation Plan and Strategic Plan 2020-25 further identifies areas of improvement and focuses on inclusion, equality and raising standards.

“We remain committed to eradicating all awarding gaps and want all students to achieve their full potential and be able to embrace the broadest range of opportunities available to them as work-ready graduates.”