85.9 per cent of graduates received a 2:1 or above last year

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Chart credit: The Saint

The percentage of students gaining a first class degree is continuing to rise, figures obtained by The Saint reveal.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request showed that 393 students received a first class degree last year and 879 secured an upper second class degree. This means that 85.9 per cent of students were awarded an upper second class degree or above.

This compares to only 68 per cent in 2002-03. Though only one in 10 students gained a first class degree 10 years ago, now one in four students is making the top grade.

St Andrews is above the national average in terms of students gaining top degrees. Across the UK, 71.8 per cent of full time students gained an upper second class degree or above in 2013-14, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

A spokesperson for the University defended this rise, explaining that it can be put down to the increasingly high standard of St Andrews entrant students: “We know educational attainment has been rising across the sector. Competition for places at St Andrews has grown in recent years and the University has, by necessity, become even more selective.

“Our entrants are of a higher academic standing than ever before, therefore it follows that they will secure more first class degrees.”

“However, it has been recognised for some time that the current degree classification system is a blunt instrument,” they continued.

For this reason, in 2010, the University introduced the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). This is a full list of a student’s academic achievements throughout their University career – including both academic and non-academic awards – given to undergraduates and taught postgraduates upon graduation.

The spokesperson said: “The aim of the HEAR is to provide a more detailed account of what a student has actually achieved during their studies …rather than just a one-off degree classification.

“A degree result is a marker, but a full report of achievements made at Scotland’s first University is something very special.”

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