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.
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)".
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!