Are academic standards declining?

Another interesting observation, as a former university employee, is the declining academic standards upon the increase of alien [sic – he means international, not interplanetary] students.

Commenter ‘Baz’, 19 February

The claim that academic standards are in decline is always with us; only the cause varies (mass education, progressive education, managerialism, government funding cuts etc etc). But since academic standards are generally set internally by universities it is hard for outsiders to assess the credibilty of declinist claims.

My response to these allegations has been that while the absence of external standard-setting and scrutiny makes declining academic standards possible, proxy data hasn’t supported the declinist thesis. Employers are not, for example, showing their dissatisfaction by employing fewer graduates or giving them a lower premium for their degree (beyond the usual cyclical changes). And I have been observing for many years that pass rates are not showing any consistent upward trend.

However Baz’s comment prompted me to look at the latest data on ‘progress’ (ie pass) rates. Continue reading “Are academic standards declining?”