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Degree value declined sharply over last 20 years.

 
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sun Mar 20, 2016 8:36 pm    Post subject: Degree value declined sharply over last 20 years. Reply with quote

http://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/mar/12/growth-in-university-education-is-affecting-graduate-earning-power
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scot47



Joined: 10 Jan 2003
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Location: Respice post te! Hominem te esse memento! Memento mori!

PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 10:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

50% of the age group now go to university. It used to be 5%.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 972
Location: UK

PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 10:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The decline in standards goes back to the 1990s when the Labour Government decided to create the target of having 50% of students in higher education.

This led to what have been called Mickey Mouse degrees in subjects such as David Beckham Studies; Harry Potter Studies; Golf Management; Surf Science etc. These are perceived as being intellectually less rigorous than traditional academic degrees. Yet the graduates have flooded the labour market and many remain unemployed. Having a degree has lost its previous prestige of indicating intellectual capacity.

This problem was compounded by the conversion of polytechnics into new universities from 1992 onwards. This had led to the annual grade rise in A level exams necessary for getting into university.

Top universities will not accept these ' soft option' A levels such as General Studies, Critical Thinking, Media Studies etc
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2016 11:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dedicated wrote:
This led to what have been called Mickey Mouse degrees in subjects such as David Beckham Studies; Harry Potter Studies; Golf Management; Surf Science etc. These are perceived as being intellectually less rigorous than traditional academic degrees.


Don't put the blame on the gimmicky subjects . . . even so called intellectually and rigorous academic degrees have been dumbed down and tweaked so that a pass is guaranteed to any fee-paying student. I teach at a university in London and it's embarrassing how low the pass mark is and how bad the students are. Further the manager of the language centre expects a pass, so you might be perceived as a troublemaker if you don't pass weak students. More worrying in these days of economic uncertainty is that fact that you may not be invited back to teach the following summer. It's all a big for-profit scam and this trend of degree devaluation will only get worse as schools get more desperate to get bums on seats.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 972
Location: UK

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 11:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Let's not confuse the issues here.

The original title of this thread was " Degree value declined sharply over the last 20 years'. The growth in university education is affecting graduate earning power because supply has exceeded demand. 1 in 3 workers now has a degree, up from 1 in 10 in 1985. This is referring primarily to home students as very few overseas graduates remain in the UK after graduation.

Quote:
...a pass is guaranteed to any fee-paying student


This is a very sweeping generalization and clearly depends which university you are working at. Certainly it does not apply where I work, a world high-ranking university and now anyway all students whether home or overseas are fee-paying. I guess you are referring to overseas students as you go on to talk about a Language Centre.

Quote:
Further the manager of the language centre expects a pass...you may not be invited back to teach the following summer


Language centres do not award degrees. They act as a service department teaching overseas students to acquire the English language and academic skills necessary to enter a department, which is usually the equivalent of IELTS 6.5-7.0 depending on the department. I totally agree that some have poor English, but even if they pass to the department, they will probably not be successful in their degree course. We track students as they progress and weak students often fail. However, some may not be great at English but have outstanding skills in Maths or Computer Science, which need little English but ability to construct algorithms.





[/quote] I teach at a university in London and it's embarrassing how low the pass mark is and how bad the students are[quote]

Which pass mark are you referring to? The Language Centre pass mark or a specific department?
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dedicated wrote:
Language centres do not award degrees. They act as a service department teaching overseas students to acquire the English language and academic skills necessary to enter a department, which is usually the equivalent of IELTS 6.5-7.0 depending on the department. I totally agree that some have poor English, but even if they pass to the department, they will probably not be successful in their degree course.


Language centres act as pathways to degree courses. The language centre should be the gatekeeper, ensuring that the requisite language skills are met before progression is allowed. However, this often isn't happening. Pass marks are set purposely low so that students pass and move to the next level so that the university get their fees. At my university, the pass mark in the language centre is low and likewise in many of the departments themselves. The Business and Marketing Schools are infamous for giving away degrees. A handful of my ex-students have actually told me that in truth they should have failed but were quite surprised to pass . . . and pass with flying colours!

With the visa rules tightening up and more schools being given the right to grant degrees, is it any wonder that schools are dumbing down their degrees so that they can get the numbers they need to survive? The consequences of this however is that many students have meaningless degrees, prestigious institutions are losing their prestige, and employers are worried about hiring impostors.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/584050/British-universities-dumbing-down-degrees-more-students-graduate-top-class-honours
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gregory999



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

slapntickle wrote:
At my university, the pass mark in the language centre is low and likewise in many of the departments themselves.

What is the pass mark in your language centre?
30%? 35%? 40%?

Quote:
The Business and Marketing Schools are infamous for giving away degrees. A handful of my ex-students have actually told me that in truth they should have failed but were quite surprised to pass . . . and pass with flying colours!

No QA control in these schools? They pass failed students?
How come?
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 9:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gregory999 wrote:
slapntickle wrote:
At my university, the pass mark in the language centre is low and likewise in many of the departments themselves.

What is the pass mark in your language centre?
30%? 35%? 40%?

Quote:
The Business and Marketing Schools are infamous for giving away degrees. A handful of my ex-students have actually told me that in truth they should have failed but were quite surprised to pass . . . and pass with flying colours!

No QA control in these schools? They pass failed students?
How come?


Are you playing devil's advocate? The article I quoted from the Express makes it crystal clear that numbers can be manipulated to give you the required outcome. As the article suggests, the problem is rife. Long gone are the days when you had to get more than 70% to gain a good pass.
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Dedicated



Joined: 18 May 2007
Posts: 972
Location: UK

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

slapntickle,

The Express article you posted from June 2015, clearly says 'universities have been accused of dumbing down degrees, yet the only academic giving an opinion is Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham.

Buckingham is the only private UK university with about 2,250 students and receives no state funding, offering 2 year degrees. However, in 2014, their medicine courses were found by the Higher Education QAA to be' at serious risks of failure'. Also in 2014 an audit by QAA found Buckingham breached its own plagiarism rules. In 2016, it has just been ranked 57th in the university rankings.

The Express article also says ' it now matters more where you go to university than what results you achieve'. This is so true and top employers know this seeking graduates from the top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College, LSE, UCL, where there are external examiners and strict adherence to QAA standards. Lower ranked universities (below 100) in London, such as London Met, South Bank, East London, Westminster, West London, Greenwich, University of the Arts don't get a look in even if their grades have been inflated.

The Express article states ' ...there was little evidence of an effective counter-narrative to claims of grade inflation'. Nobody is prepared to speak out and there is no concrete evidence.



[/b]
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nomad soul



Joined: 31 Jan 2010
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Location: The real world

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 12:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the US, a BA is worth what a high school diploma was five decades ago. In other words, it's essentially the new high school diploma because there's a glut of BA holders. However, quality is more of an issue for those who attended for-profit universities.
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dedicated wrote:
Nobody is prepared to speak out and there is no concrete evidence.


The evidence is there in black and white but teachers are vulnerable and reluctant to rock the boat. I think you are right when you say that there is less dumbing down at the better universities in the UK. The reason for that of course is that these schools have prestigious reputations and employers recognise that the degree has real value. However, even some of these top universities are not immune from the dumbing down syndrome as the reference to Bristol shows in the following article:

Thousands of students are being awarded degrees without ever sitting a traditional exam.
Universities are replacing finals with ‘grade inflating’ coursework, new figures show.
More than 2,300 higher education courses – nearly seven per cent of the total – involve no end-of-year ‘unseen’ exams, as universities and colleges increasingly rely on assessing coursework or ‘take home’ exams that students have days to complete.
They now account for more than half of the marks on 70 per cent of courses in the UK, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Even elite Russell Group universities are adopting more coursework-intensive degrees – at Bristol, for example, coursework makes up 82 per cent of an English degree.
But critics say the trend has resulted in ‘dumbed-down’ degrees as research shows students assessed through coursework tend to be awarded significantly higher grades than those sitting final exams in the same subjects.
They argue students can unfairly boost their marks with help from lecturers or can cheat by downloading essays or plagiarising academic work they find online, while universities under pressure to fill places may mark coursework more generously.
The proportion of undergraduates awarded a First or an Upper Second has risen dramatically over recent times, with the latest figures showing yet another increase to 73 per cent last year, up from 70 per cent in 2013-14.
Professor Alison Wolf, of the Centre for University Policy Research at King’s College London, said she was ‘shocked’ by the number of coursework-only degrees.
Coursework accounts for over half of the marks on 70 per cent of courses in the UK, according to the figures
‘It is much easier to cheat with coursework than it is with exams. But it is also very bad practice to have degrees which only use one sort of assessment.’
But many universities and higher education colleges believe coursework is a better way of judging students than expecting them to cram for a one-off ‘memory test’.
Pam Tatlow, of the university think-tank million+, said: ‘Exams are not always the best way of assessing knowledge but no one should think that students are being given an easy option if they are not used.’

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3435480/A-degree-won-t-need-sit-exams-Critics-say-universities-handing-dumbed-qualifications-replacing-finals-grade-inflating-coursework.html

I might add that even the coursework on many of these courses is easy. In fact the courses are designed to be easy and get students through so that everyone is happy: students get their PASS, teachers get paid, and the university makes a financial killing. It's difficult to argue against this, but the fallout is that standards are dropping drastically and degrees are being seriously devalued. The reality is that students are studying for these degrees but graduating with few real skills that can be used by employers. Many employers have been bemoaning the fact for years that they are unable to find skilled graduates. Take BP for example who are unable "to attract enough engineers for available roles":

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/8699946/BP-says-it-cannot-find-skilled-workers.html

No wonder Britain is going down the drain fast.
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gregory999



Joined: 29 Jul 2015
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 7:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What do you propose to improve the situation, and make the graduates more employable?
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slapntickle



Joined: 07 Sep 2010
Posts: 264

PostPosted: Sat Mar 26, 2016 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

gregory999 wrote:
What do you propose to improve the situation, and make the graduates more employable?


It's a good question, but one thing is for sure: the universities aren't equipping our students with the skills they need, and many of these students shouldn't be at university anyway. Maybe a 2-track system with some students going into university en route to an academic career, while others go to vocational school to get practical skills that might be useful for a company like BP. This is the way it used to be and it worked well.
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