Top degree grades awarded to students by NI universities rises by 50 per cent
THE number of top degree grades awarded to students by universities in Northern Ireland has risen by 50 per cent in the last five years, new figures show.
Statistics also reveal a significant rise in top degree classifications in the last two academic years, which have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show around a third of students at universities in the north were awarded top grades last year - a rise of around 50 per cent since 2016/17.
Just under 3,500 students taking their first degrees were awarded first-class honours in 2020/21, while 5,320 received an upper second class classification.
Around 1,600 received a lower second class or pass degree.
Over the past two years, many degree courses have been taught entirely online until on-campus teaching resumed last September.
It has been suggested by the HESA that the rise in top grades comes after universities had taken "into consideration the ongoing difficulties faced by students" during the coronavirus crisis.
The figures also show the number of undergraduate students starting a full or part-time degree in the north had increased by 12 per cent from 2019/20, rising from 12,210 to 13,685 in 2020/21.
Around 16,500 students whose home address was in Northern Ireland were in higher education in England, Scotland or Wales.