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First-class degrees at a record level

By Alison Kershaw

Published 13/01/2017

The proportion of UK students leaving university with top honours has reached record levels in the last five years, figures show.

Almost one in four (24%) graduated with a first last year, compared with 17% - just over one in six - in 2011/12, according to data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The figures, which cover UK universities and colleges, are likely to spark fresh debate about grade inflation and whether the centuries-old degree classification system is still fit for purpose.

In recent years a number of employers have stopped asking for specific degree standards, with one expert saying that firms do not want to miss out on highly qualified candidates simply because they did not gain a certain degree.

Overall in 2015/16, almost three in four students - 73% - were awarded at least an upper second (2:1), compared with 66% just five years earlier.

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