Universities demand end to artificial grade inflation

Irish universities are demanding a return to the traditional spread of grades in the Leaving Certificate, after a third year of grade inflation.

The exam is predominantly written and is taken at the end of secondary schooling and is used by universities to select students for entry.

Their plea follows a third year of inflated grades. The exam was cancelled in 2020 because of COVID-19 and calculated grades were used instead. In 2021 students had the option of receiving accredited grades which were based on teachers’ or schools’ estimated marks, sitting the exam or both.

This year all students sat the exam which was marked in the traditional way. But their marks were then adjusted upwards to bring them into line with last year’s record set of high grades. This ‘post-mark intervention’ meant that the results were artificially inflated by an average of 5.6%.

The upgrading was ordered by the Education Minister Norma Foley who said students had been very clear that they should receive results on par with the previous year in the interests of fairness.

Otherwise they would be competing with candidates from the previous two years who had benefited from inflated grades and who had re-applied for university places.

But the use of inflated grades again this year meant high entry requirements for many university courses where selection is on the basis of supply and demand. Places on some high demand courses had to be offered on random selection, in effect a lottery system.

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