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The student-consumer and grade inflation: the evidence from the US

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The student-consumer and grade inflation: the evidence from the US

A study by Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, reported by the New York Times, sets out the relation between private universities and grade inflation in American universities. It is indicative of some of the consequences that may come in the wake of the privatisation of higher education planned by our Government. In this context, it is significant that a number of self-defined ‘elite’ universities are planning to adopt the GPA system  in order to “do better for our students.”

The study (a) demonstrates that the US has experienced massive grade inflation in the past half century, (b) shows that it is now far worse in private than public institutions, and (c) argues that both the tuition fee inflation and “more consumer-based approach to education” are to blame: these have “created both external and internal incentives for the faculty to grade more generously. More generous grading can produce better instructor reviews, for example, and can help students be more competitive candidates for graduate schools and the job market.”

  1. Dr. Anthony Mellors says:

    It doesn’t surprise me that there are no replies to this report. I published a brief letter on this issue in the THES and received no response. Academics seem to be afraid to admit what they know all too well – that grade inflation occurs across the sector and works by shaving-off up to 50% of the lower marks during the second and third years of a given course. Colleagues are timid about this issue because there’s a strong element of denial involved linked to professional status and the wish not to be associated with the right-wing press, which constantly harps on about ‘lowered standards’. As I see it, however, the problem is caused by the target-driven culture endorsed by the right. Schools and universities are forced to find ways of finessing results so that they appear to be achieving increasingly favourable ‘outcomes’; this consumerist drive is entirely incompatible with objectivity and quality, and we should wake up to the fact.


  1. Grade-inflation UK … The customer is always right! | Campaign for the Public University - [...] Campaign for the Public University reported back in July on a US study that showed how grade inflation was…

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