Welsh higher education dilemma

Welsh Universities have awarded fewer first and upper second degrees than the rest of the UK, while the education quality is not the main reason.

Graduates in the UK
Graduates in the UK

The quality of universities in Wales has been questioned because data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that, the first degrees handed out from universities in Wales has decreased by 2.0% in 2014/2015.

Critical points suggested that the concerns about the quality of Welsh higher education should be raised. However, rather than quality, other issues about higher education in Wales should also be put forward.

A spokesperson for Cardiff University responded that “the proportion of first class degrees awarded by Cardiff University has increased in line with sector-wide figures. In all cases the standards of awards are confirmed by External Examiners as being at least equal to those of comparable universities, and in many cases above them.”

According to the data from HESA, the number of the total students in England during 2014/2015 achieved 1,869,345, while that in Wales only reached 125,680.

Captain Sensible (pseudonym respondent) said: “We only have one Russel group university here. Top performing pupils at A level will aim to go to a top university. Cardiff can’t take them all.”

“We have also had our universities admitting pupils on UCAS points and the Welsh Bacc. It has been an easy route to those points so that students who didn’t perform to a high standard in A levels still had high UCAS points scores. The English universities weren’t recognizing Welsh Bacc and admitted on A level grades only until last year when the Welsh Bacc was graded.”

“The biggest problem of all is that Welsh students still largely go to Welsh universities and English students to English universities. At the end, the result that they get poorer degrees is inevitable.”

Milwaukee (pseudonym respondent), commented to this: “Why should there be concerns about ‘quality’ if fewer firsts and upper seconds are awarded? Degree class should reflect student’s performance and academic integrity, not the need to match neighboring institutions.

“There is enough ‘dumbing down’ already, a proliferation of useless degrees right across the UK and a complete waste of resources in promoting ‘academic’ subjects before technical skills. This keeps borderline academics in employment and students in penury for the rest of their lives!”

Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru’s education spokesman, also indicated that the lack of investment is harmful to higher education. Compared to the quality of higher education in Wales, things like different recruitment policy in universities, the tuition fee policy and student’s own willing should all be taken into account.