Brian Lucey’s recent post on grade inflation was interesting in that it presented some actual hard data, something that is often lacking in commentaries on education. Going back to the original document on which this data is based, it is interesting to examine how the percentage of Firsts changed in the period 1994 – 2008. The data are shown below for five of the seven universities. I’ve left out UCD because the available data did not include figures for the UCD Arts Faculty – a large faculty indeed. Also, NUIM is something of an outlier – in 1994 only 1.5% of NUIM graduates got ‘Firsts’, a factor of almost 5 below what the other universities were granting. The rise and rise of NUIM is, I suspect, a special case, and may well reflect the growth in population in the commuter belt, making that institution a lot more attractive to school leavers. It would be interesting to dig out the CAO figures for NUIM over the last 15-20 years. I suspect that entry standards have risen substantially. (That’s not to say that other factors on the teaching side mightn’t have changed as well.)
Anyway, if you look at the data, it is clear that by 2007, the percentage of Firsts awarded was pretty uniform across the universities. It would be very hard to argue that the variation in these numbers reflects the application of different standards. While, there is no doubt that more Firsts are being awarded across the board, I have argued previously in this blog that this might not simply reflect a reduction in standards but the changing nature of Third Level Education.
Now, all we need is data for 2009-2013.