Clever students earn more Firsts

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According to new data from a higher education body, graduates attain more First Class degrees than five years ago.

New data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows graduates receive more Firsts compared to five years ago. At the end of the 2015/16 academic year, almost one in four graduates (24%) received the top classification of degree - a First, compared to 17% five years ago.

HESA also notes an increase in graduates receiving a 2:1 degree. Recent figures show a rise form 66% to 73% in graduates who receive an Upper Second Class degree in the last five years.

However, Martin Birchall, Managing Director at graduate research organisation High Fliers Research, says graduates with a 2:2 should not panic.

"A number of employers have realised that if they use a blunt cut-off such as a 2:1 or above, they're missing out on some great people, so degree classification has become less important," he says in the Guardian.

The new data stirs the debate about whether degree classifications are useful to employers or too broad to provide any insight to a candidate's ability.

"It makes life harder if almost everyone who applies for a graduate job comes with a first or a 2:1 because employers can't use that to differentiate between candidates."

Martin also says the rise in top degree classifications can be misleading because of a lack of national regulation.

"It's very hard to understand why more and more students are getting these top grades," he says.

"Degrees are not benchmarked as a national standard, so there is no way of telling whether individual universities are becoming more generous in the degrees they are awarding or whether standards are genuinely rising."

Image credit: Noah Hinton