Nearly 2 thirds of graduates come out with a 1st or upper second class degree, but admissions numbers begin to fall.

Hesa statistics reveal that 53,215 (one in six) graduates were awarded with a first class degree last summer. A 5% fall in undergraduate enrolment has been reported this year with a total of a 1% fall in UK students enrolled at UK universities.

For the 2010-2011 academic year figures show that 66% of women taking their first degree achieved a first or upper second classification and 61% of men met the same level. Women make up the majority (57%) of those studying for their first degree.

The amount of students graduating with a first is a sharp increase from the 2006-2007 figure of 36,645 compared to the recent 53,215.

Users from The Student Room had mixed opinions on the importance of a first class degree for future prospects:

‘A 1st is better than a 2:1 it’s as simple as that.’

‘Entirely depends on the employer, their attitudes and knowledge of the education system.

In the end your degree classification is one of many things an employer is going to look at when judging you. If you want to be a top lawyer, investment banker or something along those lines then it’ll make a difference ‘

Its impossible to equivalate degrees. I think anyone who’s done a degree knows that some modules within that university/course are far easier than others- showing that regulators are not effective in making sure modules (and therefore degrees) are weighted effectively. Top universities attract top academics who demand/expect more from their students – who on average set harder courses (and expect more independent learning) making it harder to achieve certain marks.’

Despite the drop in UK university admissions this has been off-set by the number of overseas students, making up 17% of the total students at British universities.

A large increase in overseas students studying UK qualifications without coming to the UK has been seen in the last year. Their study is delivered by attending an overseas campus or by distance learning; numbers of students choosing this method of learning rose by 100,000.

The number of students choosing to study part time experienced a sharp decrease of 8%.

Chief executive of vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK reported that the increase in first and 2.1s was to be expected, as it has been rising marginally every year, in line with the improvement in A level results. She goes on to state that Universities UK wish to support a trial of the Higher Education Achievement Report (Hear) as the current degree classification system is a ‘blunt instrument for assessing achievement…..it has been clear for some time’

Chief executive of the University think-tank million finds the drop in university admissions, despite impressive classification results, disappointing, especially at such a difficult time of rising unemployment. Despite demand for places being at record levels universities are pressured to keep places down or be fined rather than have the Government provide additional funding.

See also
Over 14% of graduates obtain a first class degree.