Grade inflation in UK higher education

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the continual increase in the proportion of ‘good’ honour degrees awarded by UK universities since the mid-2000s. This trend has brought with it the charge of ‘grade inflation’ that may reflect falling standards in UK higher education. This issue has been raised in the national press and in government which brings into question the usefulness of the current degree classification system. Using a stochastic frontier strategy and university-wide data, we find evidence of grade inflation in UK higher education from 2009 onwards after controlling for changes in university efficiency in improving degree outcome and factors associated with degree performance. The data employed allow several other sub-themes to be explored. We confirm the findings from previous research that a student’s pre-entry A-level score, region of domicile and previous schooling impact on degree performance. This paper contributes to the relatively thin UK literature that exists on ‘grade inflation’.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1580-1600
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2015


  • higher education
  • grade inflation
  • stochastic frontier.


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