Academic Standards

Concern exists about possible grade inflation. It is claimed that academics are under increasing pressure from administrators to award students good marks and grades without regard for those students' actual abilities, both to keep those students in school paying tuition and to boost the school's graduation rates. It is also claimed that academics who enforce rigorous standards risk receiving poor student course evaluations.

Another concern is that the government has pressured universities to take more applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and to increase diversity in their student population, forcing them to divert resources to diversity efforts and away from research and education, thereby leading to a decline in their positions in the Times Higher Education international reputation ranking. Other experts, however, link this decline to problems getting visas for international staff and lack of investment.

The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) regularly reviews all UK universities to ensure standards are maintained. It is also responsible for producing subject benchmark statements and descriptions of the different degree levels (foundation, bachelor's master's and doctorates). The QAA also certifies that British degrees (with the exception of Oxbridge MAs, which it does not consider to be academic degrees) meet the level descriptors for the Bologna process, with the caveat that initial medical degrees are at master's level but retain the name of bachelor's degrees for historical reasons and that similarly the MAs of "a small number of universities" in Scotland are at bachelor's level. In some subjects (particularly those with associated chartered status), professional bodies also accredit degrees, e.g. the Institute of Physics accredits physics degrees.