Academic standards are the benchmarks of quality and excellence in education such as the rigour of curricula and the difficulty of examinations. At colleges and universities, faculty are under increasing pressure from administrators to award students good marks and grades without regard for those students' actual abilities, both to keep those students in school paying tuition and to boost the schools' graduation rates. Students often use course evaluations to criticize any instructor who they feel has been making the course too difficult, even if an objective evaluation would show that the course has been too easy.
In the UK, degree awarding bodies themselves are responsible for standards in higher education, but these are checked during inspection by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) and the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). On its website QAA defines academic standards as 'The standards set and maintained by institutions for their courses (programmes and modules) and expected for their awards.'
The Dearing Report recommended in 1997 that benchmarking be used to measure and improve academic standards. From 1997 to 2011 this was done by code of practice and other guidelines known as the Academic Infrastructure. During 2012-13, this was replaced by the Quality Code for Higher Education, which included points about the availability of information about the learning experience to emphasize the role of the student as a paying customer of the institutions.
In the USA, regulation is at state level by bodies such as the Standards and Assessment Division of the Arizona Department of Education.
- Philip Adey, Michael Shayer, Really raising standards
- Alderman, Geoffrey (10 March 2010). "Why university standards have fallen". Guardian. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- Brandon, Craig (2010). The Five-Year Party: How Colleges Have Given Up on Educating Your Child and What You Can Do About It. BenBella Books. p. 236. ISBN 978-1935251804.
- Paton, Graeme (23 October 2014). "Education standards 'in decline' at overcrowded universities". Telegraph. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
- QAA Glossary, Academic standards
- Mantz Yorke, "Benchmarking Academic Standards in the UK", Tertiary Education and Management 5 (1): 79–94, doi:10.1023/A:1018753222965
- David Palfreyman, Ted Tapper (2014), Reshaping the University, Oxford University Press, pp. 227–228, ISBN 978-0199659821
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