A recent Irish Times investigation has revealed that Dublin City University and University College Cork are the colleges in Ireland most likely to see their students graduate with a first class honours degree. This is despite the fact that entry requirements to these colleges are generally the same or lower than some of the other institutions being examined for grade inflation.
Nearly 1-in-5 UCC students got a 1.1 in 2013
Over the past decade around 17.7% of DCU and UCC students received a 1st class honours compared to 12.8% at Maynooth University and 11.9% at University College Dublin.
In fact, while DCU firsts have declined over that 10-year period, UCC gave out more firsts in 2013 (18.9%) than any year since 2005.
Trinity College Dublin is the only institution higher than UCC and DCU in giving out grades, once 2.1s are taken into account, with 71.7% of TCD students received a 1.1 or 2.1, when compared to 64.3% of DCU students and 64.2% of UCC students. However Trinity explained that they believe this is due to their higher entrance standards.
While these figures raise questions around the possibility of grade inflation for particular universities, there were general signs of grade inflation across all faculty levels. These figures reflecting general increases in grades being received comes amid a backdrop of many graduate job programmes not accepting students who receive less than a 2.1 degree in their field.
Debate was sparked earlier this year by the founder of The Summit web company, Paddy Cosgrave, stating the company would only accept interns who received a 1.1 degree from most Irish Universities or a 2.1 from Trinity, he argued that “a 2.1 in one university would not equate to a 2.1 in another university.”
Grade inflation is generally understood to mean an increase in the grade being awarded by educational facilities without a matched improvement in the standards of learning.
In addition to the accusations of grade inflation, it has also been revealed that the amount of funding each third-level institution will receive per student is to drop to €9,000 next year. The drop represents a 24% decrease in the amount of government funding each institution will now receive.
The announcement was criticised by the Higher Education Authority’s Chief Executive, Tom Boland, who stated that further cuts will prevent education from meeting the demands placed upon it. Boland added that the only way to prevent this from occurring would be urgent discussions on funding, while also awarding colleges a greater level of autonomy to manage their own affairs.
Cuts to education have a knock-on effect for wider Irish society, as Boland pointed to the fact that graduates not only gain employment more easily than the general public, but also earn a higher income.
Speaking at the Dublin Economic Workshop, Boland highlighted that Irish third-level colleges contribute a total of €10 billion to the Irish economy annually. Ireland’s seven universities contribute a total of €7.4 billion, with the remainder coming from the Institutes of Technology.
Image by: Tomas Tyner