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Departments Still Handing Out Poor Degrees

Jun 23 2009 18:46
Lawrence Weetman
Live! looks at the Maths and Materials departments, who consistently hand out a low proportion of "Good Honours" degrees.
Are Imperial Students really struggling in Maths and Materials?

Whilst conducting interviews about Imperial's position in the Guardian and Times University League Tables earlier this month, Live! spoke to ICU Deputy President (Education & Welfare), Hannah Theodorou, to ask her why she thought about Imperial's ranking in each.

We pointed out that criteria for ranking in The Times' league tables includes the number of "Good Honours" degrees that the university hands out. Imperial fares badly when it comes to this criteria; in the top 25 universities listed, only Aston and Loughborough offer less "good" degrees than Imperial.

That either means that we are taking in poorer-quality students than in all of the other departments or the teaching in that department isn?t bringing them up to scratch.
Hannah Theodorou, DPEW

The DPEW said that there are "specific departments... who are consistently giving out lower rates of 2:1s and firsts". She continued, "the college does have a 70% target for 2:1s and firsts and there are some that are consistently below that and that either means that we are taking in poorer-quality students than in all of the other departments or the teaching in that department isn?t bringing them up to scratch".

So last week, Live! took a look at College's statistics guide and found that whilst the majority of departments do give around 70% of their students 2:1s and firsts, the Department of Mathematics and the Department of Materials give a consistently low proportion of good honours degrees.

In the case of the Materials Department, just 44.1% of students were awarded a first or 2:1 in 2006, with little improvement in 2007 where the figure stood at 54.9%. The Mathematics Department is little better, with 58.5% of students being offered a first or 2:1 in 2006, and 58.4% in 2007 - despite criticism of the department in previous years for not awarding high enough degree classifications.

Live! contacted the senior tutors of the two departments. The Mathematics senior tutor, Dr Lynda White, has provided us with a statement. She says, "it's true that Maths appears to have a low total number of firsts and 2.1s. The reasons for this are many and complex... however the figures which are quoted are distorted by the fact that they are taken over a number of different degree codings (including one which no longer exists and two joint degrees with another Imperial department)".

The figures which are quoted are distorted by the fact that they are taken over a number of different degree codings.
Dr Lynda White, Senior Tutor of Mathematics

Whilst no specifics were given about the "other" Imperial department, only the Department of Computing offers joint degrees with the Maths department. So far, Dr Luc Vandeperre of Materials has not responded to our requests for a comment.

These statistics, and their relevance in university league tables, raise questions about whether Imperial should review its degree classifications. Although Mathematics and Materials are the only two departments (out of a total of fifteen) to award under 60% of their students with "good honours", the overall statistic is currently 60.3%. These departments are clearly pulling down this average.

Are you a student or member of staff in one of these departments? How do you feel about the number of firsts and 2:1s awarded each year? Do you think that this affects Imperial's reputation? Be sure to leave your comments below!

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Discussion about “Departments Still Handing Out Poor Degrees”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Jun 23 2009 21:39

It's a great thing that Materials and Maths do not award illl deserved degrees, like many other departments appear to. Surely that means that those who do achieve have a greater worth attached to their degree.

I's be interested in seeing the last years' figures non....?

Jun 23 2009 22:36

is that the teaching is poor

Jun 23 2009 23:04

Stop whinging about the quality of teaching and teach yourselves like the rest of us do. Students who complain are more often than not the ones who are borderline 2:2 3rds students. The honours students haven't got time to waste complaining cos they're in the library.

Stop trying to get Imperial to lower its standards just cos you are a lazy fag! The reason Imperial is held so high in the employers eyes is because the employer knows you have worked hard to get your 2:1 or 1st and therefore knows you are going to work hard for them.

Anyone who complains about the teaching or the stats around their degrees deserves to fail. Pull your thumb out and work!

4. bob   
Jun 23 2009 23:24

stop trying to defend maths. having sat through more than enough years of their departmental c**p it became evident to me that they were only interested in you if you wanted to become an actuary. if you chose to do real maths, such as the maths one was interested in when joining IC, you were basically setting yourself up for failure. the only people who wil defend the retarded way in which the department worked are those who actually liked statistics - which is interesting given that "statistically speaking" when i first saw this headline i thought "there's a 99% probability maths gets mentioned in this artile"

Jun 24 2009 08:55

I hate statistics as much as any sane person in the maths department but I feel bob has been unfair, the teaching may not be amazing in the sense that some topics such as topology are introduced too late in the course, but otherwise it's alright.

The fact that maths hasn't succomed to the quantitive easying of degree classes is a good thing, why should Imperial change its ways just for the benefit of the rather backwards method in which the Guardian ranks universities. To refrase the author 'other departments are clearly pushing the average up!'

Jun 24 2009 09:10

The maths dept is outrageous. It has one of the highest entry scores (average AAA+, many have 5As) yet also has one of the lowest degree classifications. If they do a mapping between entry A-level grades and graduating degree class you will see that maths is one of the biggest outliner.

Jun 25 2009 14:32

Dear "what it means you fool"

Clearly you're just blaming someone other than yourself... It isnt supposed to be easy.. Oxford and Cambridge don't hand out many 1st's either...!

8. @7   
Jun 25 2009 16:16

I wouldn't say that is true, with regards to Oxford anyway

Jun 25 2009 16:29

when one or two departments are handing out consistently lower degrees, it doesn't mean that maths students are lazy, it obviously points to a problem with the quality of the department

10. Alex   
Jun 25 2009 18:02

bob could you please explain why you think the department isn't good for those who are not interested in stats.

I intend to an MSc in Pure Maths there and know someone who thinking about doing a straight maths degree at imperial this year and an extra help would be great from someone who has actually experienced it.

From what I heard the pure maths dept is supposed to be really good.

Jun 25 2009 19:26

Editor plz change the poll, can we have which event we liked the most or which degree s hardest (materials vs physical science vs life sciences vs engineering) or could we have a pole of the best looking sabb/fu people next year.

Jun 25 2009 19:27

I did mean poll!

Jul 21 2009 19:49

now I feel so much better about myself and my 2.2

14. @13   
Jul 23 2009 22:01

Seriously mate, search the web for exams from Maths departments in other unis, they're p*** easy (then again I don't know if they have higher pass marks etc but I doubt it). There are only three real maths departments in the UK: Cambridge, Imperial and Warwick!

And I wouldn't be surprised if it's the same in other departments too. I met an Mech/Areo Eng prof who used to teach in IC and MIT and he told me he taught a course in IC over a term but when he was in MIT he taught the same course over the whole year and had to skip out lots of bits!

However one negative side of IC is that it's students love stroking our own ego :P

Jul 23 2009 23:40

To be honest, if you compare the math exams with math exams of continental european countries, the British ones seem awfully easy - especially the ones in Pure Maths.

Jul 29 2009 03:44

Interesting concept needs to do some research.

Cambridge and Oxford actually give out a higher proportion of 1:1 and 2:1 degrees than average.

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