Degree classifications and university names - Do they mean anything at all ?

The BBC reports that degree courses and classifications are not comparable between courses. This would be obvious to most people who have any experience of going to University, but questions ought to be asked of the relevant authorities as to why Ofsted is not doing its job here.

My own personal experience on my own course when at Coventry University (an ex poly) was that when at the end of the first year we had to choose our specialism from a choice politics, history or international relations, some friends of mine opted for international relations because, as they pointed out, "the I.R. tutors always mark more generously". Personally, that didn't sway me and I opted for politics.

Then there was another example that comes to mind still. I wrote what I believed to be an epic essay with the title "To what extent was revisionism within the Labour Party a break from traditional socialism". I have to say it was the best essay I ever wrote. When I got it back I was gutted to get only 67%. I spoke to the lecturer about it and he explained that it was the best essay he had marked using that title. He then went on to explain that if I wanted a "first" I was at the wrong University. I enquired why that was and he explained that he also marked and taught at another University nearby and that he had used the same title for an essay there. The difference was that at the other University, from thirty essays handed in, he was expected to award five or six "firsts" for the essays, no matter how good they actually were. He re-iterated, "it would have been a first at the University of X. Just be grateful that you've earned your degree the right way as we mark your essays properly in this department, even if degrees from the other Midlands University are considered to be more prestigious."

I have to say it didn't make me feel good and I somewhat resented the fact that this other University, so highly regarded, should band it's degrees to ensure that people achieved firsts, even if they hadn't earned them.

If that was happening in 1997, I doubt things have changed much since then. Again, it begs the question "What is the point of Ofsted inspecting courses and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority existing if they don't monitor these things ?"

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