Moderation between universities - is a 2:1 the same wherever you study?

(47 Posts)
goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 21:32:16

Can anyone point me towards any research on this that's available to view online? I know at undergrad level, dd1's work was sent to another similar level university for moderation. Is there moderation across the board, eg University of Essex and Oxford, Canterbury Christchurch and Bristol?

Dd1 reckons a couple of her friends did well at undergrad level (2:1s)and now they are at a good RG university are struggling with research/essays in particular. She feels her friend may have been lulled into a false sense of security by her first university which if true is not fair. If just a blip with an essay result they can boost her confidence.

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SaneAsABoxOfFrogs Mon 13-Feb-17 21:38:03

Are they doing another undergraduate degree? In my experience if they have gone on to do a Masters or a PhD, the leap can be quite great no matter where you studied before.

ActuallyThatsSUPREMECommander Mon 13-Feb-17 21:41:11

It's a question which doesn't have a definitive answer - arguably because it doesn't really suit anyone to give it one.
Interesting THES article

ScottishProf Mon 13-Feb-17 21:41:30

No, there is no system that even pretends to ensure that a 2i in one place is the same as a 2i in another. A couple of things do happen:

- The external examiner system (where an experienced member of staff from I've university attendees examiners' meetings at another) helps universities not to get too far adrift of others that it regards as peers. (More usefully, though, it gives an outside eye on what you're doing, generally.)

- Universities higher up the ranking tend to give more 1sts, etc.

However, the syllabuses for the same subject in different universities can vary hugely in challenge (and in every other way too, of course) so it really wouldn't be possible to make the results comparable. A sufficient reason for this is that the students coming in vary so much. Teaching the same stuff to the student who easily got an A star at A level and was picked out as talented from a hoarde of other people who got A stars, and to the one who scraped a B but it was their best subject, is not going to work well for either.

ScottishProf Mon 13-Feb-17 21:43:38

I've -> one
attendees -> attends
and probably more typos, sorry.

MiladyThesaurus Mon 13-Feb-17 21:57:59


Standards at my current university is considerably lower than at the other universities that be worked at (one RG, the other largely in a category of its own). In fact, I'd say that work awarded a first on the degree programme I work one would routinely be awarded a 2:2 (and in some cases below) on the programmes I used to work on. I've had to learn to mark as what I think it actually deserves plus 10 or 15 marks (depending on the module I'm working on).

We appoint external examiners who work at similar universities to us, who have similarly low standards.

Part of the problem is also that the quality of teaching is often very poor (and delivered by staff who do not have sufficient knowledge nor sufficient time to gain that knowledge). The university would claim that it is teaching focused and delivers excellent teaching quality but I fundamentally disagree. They deliver slightly higher but futile (and sometimes counter productive) contact time and plenty of superficial but 'active' learning opportunities. For example, having the students spend 2 hours drawing a picture of a dog and then talking about what their various family members think about dogs in place of something that might actually learn about the societal role of dogs and introducing them to research to help them to make sense of this. The students fool themselves that they learned loads because they were busy all the time in class, but when it comes time to write an essay about dogs and social life they have nothing worthwhile to put in it. As a result you get 130 essays that are little more than personal opinion and anecdote.

goodbyestranger Mon 13-Feb-17 22:02:18

No of course not.


MaisyPops Mon 13-Feb-17 22:11:16

A 2:1 i think has to be the average grade of an institution.
Say you take students on CCC at a level then the average grade at the end of 3 years is 2:1.
Say you take students on AAA at a level then the average is a 2:1.

The quality of the 'average' between two very different intakes will reflect that the 2:1s are not comparable.

I have worked with people who have 1st in English (from a uni with lower entry grades) and then find that their writing is shocking, and honestly had to avoid laughing at what they considered difficult assignments.

But that's why anecdotally some places will prefer a 2:2 from a top uni over a 2:1 from a lower uni.

goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 22:13:07

It's an MSc at a good London RG university (my old university, not that that matters!) - dd1 studied Law at Bristol and is not struggling. Went to a great grammar school and learnt good essay technique there - 100% for History A level coursework for eg.

Friends of hers are struggling - 2-1s from other universities and not up to scratch on essays. I know in my field I meet people with degrees who can't write essays. She feels friends are being let down because these days people are led to believe that all universities have the same standards.

Is it fair to accept someone on a tough PG course and take their 10.5k without even seeing the quality of their essay writing, having a discussion with them to check how well they put forward arguments? Or is just about top research universities taking the money?

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goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 22:16:15

Milady, I think "the students fooled themselves that they learned loads" sums it up.

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HarryTheHippo Mon 13-Feb-17 22:16:50

I had an Oxford undergrad degree and started (but didn't continue) a masters at kcl yet they already had the assumption I'd be ahead.

Certainly when we were comparing first year work at Oxford with friends work in the Xmas holidays it was very different. Even the amount of work, 12 essays from scratch (if from relevant books, not having had lectures on the topic, just a title) verse a summarise essay after a terms lectures.

HarryTheHippo Mon 13-Feb-17 22:18:10

It was tricky for some friends with 2:2s from Oxford though as many career screening processes want a 2:1 so they could arguably have done better elsewhere.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 13-Feb-17 22:23:28

No, I think it's not fair. sad

Though, it could be there are other reasons than the quality of the undergraduate degree for struggling with the MA. And I do wonder if there's some confirmation/reporting bias in there? Someone who comes in to do an MA after getting a 2:1 at Faketown Metropolitan University might be intimidated by finding other people on the course come from Harvard, Oxford, Warwick and Edinburgh (or whatever) and might flounder. Or, someone like that who gets a bad result might worry more that it's to do with their undergrad.

So I'd wonder if your DD is getting a skewed picture because she'll only hear from people who admit to struggling, and those people may be struggling not because they're less able or qualified, but because they've got a bit scared by others on the course.

You do see people who have a really strong upwards trajectory on a degree course (undergrad or masters) and they are often people who came into it with a high level of ability and a lower level of training. That's not a reason they shouldn't be given the place.

SwedishEdith Mon 13-Feb-17 22:27:41

"She feels friends are being let down because these days people are led to believe that all universities have the same standards."

Who is leading people to believe this? I can't imagine anyone thinks that, really, or there wouldn't be more competition for places at particular universities - which her friends must have noticed.

goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 22:37:18

Good points,LRD.

However, I would expect anyone graduating with a 2:1 in a humanities-ish subject to be able to write a coherent essay.

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LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 13-Feb-17 22:39:07


You are so much more optimistic than me. On my bad days, I am not sure I can write a coherent essay, and I teach the students with the 2:1s (and above).

Seriously, I do think coherence can go out of the window when someone's either in a panic, or grappling with a lot of new material, especially if it's new material that necessitates a new way of thinking.

LRDtheFeministDragon Mon 13-Feb-17 22:40:07

Sorry, pressed post too soon.

I do agree with you there's a problem with people being accepted on courses they shouldn't be doing.

goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 22:45:39

SwedishEdith, people do believe this, however mad it sounds.

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Fishcakey Mon 13-Feb-17 22:48:01

I did two years at Warwick and then finished at Northampton for a further two years. I always felt that Warwick would have given me my degree on a plate. Northampton made me work bloody hard and it was a shock to the system.

goingmadinthecountry Mon 13-Feb-17 22:50:26

LRD, will pass that on to dd. The course involves lots of new concepts and people are approaching it from a wide range of disciplines.

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sweetkitty Mon 13-Feb-17 22:55:54

I would say not
I have a 2.1 from a RG uni, DH has a 2.1 from a just turned uni from a polytechnic college. He'll be the first to admit that I did about 4x the work he did to gain it.

MiladyThesaurus Tue 14-Feb-17 08:36:10

LRD: there's quite a big difference between struggling to articluate a new concept or messing up the structure a bit and the poor writing I see. I cannot understand how these students got a C in GCSE English at all.

I have 9 final year dissertation students. None of them can write to what I'd expect is an acceptable UG standard. At least five of them cannot produce basic referencing at all. The others still make quite basic referencing errors. Two of them cannot actually produce a proper sentence at all. Their work is little more than gibberish (and has no academic content) but my second marker insisted they should pass.

My university goes on and on about how high its entry requirements now are (in some cases they're allegedly higher than the nearest RG university). But, crucially, ours are expressed in UCAS points not Alevel grades. It's meant that we are turning away the BCC students and taking students with 420 points of so called equivalent qualifications. The thing is, they don't provide adequate preparation for university study.

As a result, my university definitely does (try to) tell people that our degrees are equivalent to those taken at the much more prestigious universities in the university region. I think it's completely immoral (and I do anything to avoid students recruitment type activities because, while I do need the salary this university pay me, I'm not happy to lie to prospective students. I will just try to do my absolute best for and with those that make the decision to come here.)

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 14-Feb-17 09:08:55

True, and I'm not really disagreeing with you or the OP - just trying to make the point that there can be other things to think about, especially when you're trying to understand how your classmates are doing, which is always going to be a bit of an exercise in interpreting partial data.

What you don't want to do, is to make someone feel they're destined to fail because they weren't prepared by their undergraduate degree - for one thing, it may be entirely untrue, but for another, it might be surmountable difficulty. There is a very obvious 'Oxbridge effect' of confidence and assurance, which some students project more than others, and it can be intimidating.

PhilODox Tue 14-Feb-17 09:14:27

How are people led to believe all universities have the same standards? Is this something schools/colleges are peddling?

Surely it's obvious they are of differing standards, hence pages and pages of university tables, comparing them for academics, social, research aspects, and internationally.

I sincerely hope milady's institution is not one that features in the top 100 or a member of RG or ST. But who knows these days [glum]

user7214743615 Tue 14-Feb-17 09:14:48

Is it fair to accept someone on a tough PG course and take their 10.5k without even seeing the quality of their essay writing, having a discussion with them to check how well they put forward arguments? Or is just about top research universities taking the money?

No, it's not fair. Yes, to a large extent it is about the money.

I'm not in an essay writing subject but imo students with 2:i degrees are often not qualified for a Masters, even if their 2:i is from a good institution. Masters/PhD are in general aimed at students with strong Firsts. (And in my department we simply don't take students without strong Firsts.)

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