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Higher-class degrees given out at an unprecedented rate.

Higher-class degrees given out at an unprecedented rate.

British universities have been handing out higher-class degrees at an unprecedented rate over the past decade, according to detailed figures released by the higher education regulator.

The figures, from a selection of universities taking part in the government’s latest teaching excellence framework, known as Tef3, show huge variation, with at least one university issuing five times as many first-class degrees last year as it did a decade before.

The figures confirm previous signs that universities have been upping the proportion of firsts and upper seconds awarded in recent years, which many within the sector blame on pressure from league tables and from students themselves.

The group of 20 universities were required to submit detailed records of degree classifications awarded since 2007, and annually since 2014, in an effort to identify “rigour and stretch” of students at each institution.

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