Belfast Telegraph

Fewer than 1% of students are failed by Northern Ireland universities

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's two universities failed fewer than 1% of their students in their final exams last year, it has been revealed.

Figures obtained by the Sunday Times newspapers using the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the Queen's University, Belfast and Ulster University are among a number across the UK that failed fewer than 1% of students in 2017.

It also emerged that 11 UK universities were found to have not failed any of their students in their final exams. These included Durham, Liverpool, Oxford, Worcester, Surrey, Bath, University of East London, Abertay, Arts University Bournemouth, Sunderland and Edinburgh.

In three of the 11, however, a small number of students who passed were granted a lesser award than a degree.

And more than 20 universities - including Queen's and Ulster - failed less than 1%. This number also included Cambridge, Imperial College London, Dundee, Newcastle and Leeds.

The Sunday Times reported that its figures are mostly for 2017, but in some cases are from the previous year. They cover students who completed their degree courses and do not include those who dropped out. Only four universities had a failure rate greater than 10%.

Pass rates for postgraduate study, where higher fees can be charged, were even greater. Success rates for taught master's degrees were 100% at almost 30 universities.

Universities UK, the umbrella body for higher education, said: "The UK has one of the most robust and transparent systems in the world for assuring academic standards. Universities follow the criteria set out in the UK quality code for higher education, developed by the UK's independent, higher education quality agency."

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, an Ulster University spokesman said: "These statistics reflect the high quality of our teaching and of our commitment to the provision of a rewarding learning experience which is designed to ensure that students progress through their course and achieve success in their final year. They are also a reflection of our students' commitment to their own learning and of their engagement with their chosen subjects.

"It is not in our interest, or those of our students, to be lenient in assessment. We want to send out graduates who are entirely confident and capable in their chosen subject and with a degree classification that reflects their hard work, talent and ability.

"In addition, and in common with other UK universities, the university employs external examiners who are subject experts from other universities and who check that the standards achieved by our students are entirely comparable with those achieved by students in other UK HEIs. They ensure a further independent level of rigour and objective assessment in all degree awards and are involved in the review of both coursework and examination scripts."

Queen's did not reply to our request for a response.

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