Loughborough University followed the national trend last year in awarding 6% more First Class degrees than in 2019, in the largest grade inflation at the University in recent history.

New data has revealed that 1155 First Class degrees were issued to Loughborough’s 2020 Graduates, up from 960 the year before. The number of students receiving Second and Third Class degrees decreased as a result, with just 30 students receiving a Third, or ‘Pass’, grade.

The increase in First Class degrees has led to 88% of Loughborough students graduating with a First or Upper Second Class (2:1) degree, 6% above the national average of 82%.

The number of First Class degrees issued at Loughborough echoed the national average, which also saw a 6% increase.

Graph showing undergraduate degrees issued by Loughborough University from 2015 to 2020. Data also in table form below.

The CEO of the Office for Students, Nicola Dandridge, said that this national increase was down to “no detriment policies” which had created a “significant increase in first class honours awarded to students graduating in 2020.”

But a Loughborough University spokesperson told Label that the University does “not attribute this change to the Safety Nets, although there was a small effect,” instead saying that there has been “some anecdotal evidence from staff that the quality of the work was better than in previous years.”

The grades at Loughborough align with other similar universities, with Durham, Warwick and Exeter issuing 42%, 37% and 36% of their degrees respectively as Firsts in 2020, with a 5-8% increase at all three universities.

First degree qualifiers obtaining each classification at Loughborough University

Year First Class Upper Second Class Lower Second Class Third Class (or Pass)
2019-20 35% 53% 12% 1%
2018-19 29% 55% 14% 1%
2017-18 31% 53% 15% 1%
2016-17 27% 58% 14% 2%
2015-16 25% 56% 17% 2%
2014-15 26% 56% 17% 2%

Data: HESA.

However, the University told Label that this increase is not guaranteed to be replicated for its 2021 graduates, as they “do not have a specific ‘quota’ for the number of students who are awarded each classification”, as “they are awarded on merit in respect of a student’s performance”.

The number of degrees issued by Loughborough University also increased once again, with 3340 undergraduate degrees (such as BA’s and BSc’s) granted, up by 40 on 2019 and up 460 when compared to 2015.

Devaluation of Degrees

There is concern, however, from some students who worry that the increase to grades (which now equates to 10% inflation in just 5 years) will have an impact on the value of their Loughborough University degree in the eyes of future employers.

The Office for Students said that “there is more to be done to ensure that students, graduates and employers can maintain their confidence in the value of a degree”, and that any “temporary changes in response to the pandemic should not bake in further grade inflation.”

The University, however, “do not believe that the results this year will alter the high regard that employers hold for students with a Loughborough University degree”, stating that “we were very careful last year to ensure that our high standards were upheld through the actions we took to ensure that students were not disadvantaged as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.”

They added “our outcome therefore seems very much in line with the sector, which suggests that the value of our degrees has been maintained, and this in turn ensures that our students are not disadvantaged.”


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