The Unquenchable Fire

The Unquenchable Fire

Grade inflation is a trend over time of better grades being awarded in educational qualifications that is not matched by real improvements in learning. Grade inflation is a direct function of declining educational standards.

Extensive research conducted and published on this website shows that there has been significant grade inflation in both the University and Institute of Technology sectors in the Republic of Ireland.

New Paper

The Network for Irish Educational Standards is pleased to announce the publication of its latest update on grade data in the Institute of Technology Sector:

Paper 11: Continuing Grade Inflation 2009-2013 in the Institute of Technology Sector in Ireland by Martin O’Grady and Brendan Guilfoyle.

The findings are discussed in a blog post on the paper here.

Below is a Table summarizing the increase in the top two grades across both the Institutes of Technology and Universities. Note: The averages for two academic years are used in each case to minimise the impact of random year to year fluctuations in grade percentages. The current grading system for Level 6 and 7 was introduced in 1998.


Increase in top grades at all undergraduate levels    
Institute of Technology Sector (not including DIT)
%1994/1995%2012/2013ChangeChange %
Level 8 (Hons. Deg.)
First Class8.718.5+9.8+112.0
Upper Second27.637.6+10.0+36.4
Level 7 (Ord. Deg.)%1998/1999%2012/2013ChangeChange %
Merit 124.330.9+6.6+27.3
Level 6 (Higher Cert.)%1998/1999%2012/2013ChangeChange %
Merit 118.626.5+7.9+42.5
University Sector
%1994/1995%2012/2013ChangeChange %
Level 8 (Hons. Deg)
First Class7.415.0+7.6+102.7
Upper Second28.446.9+18.5+65.1


Origins of Grade Inflation

Grade inflation in Irish higher education has been driven by institutions prioritising student numbers and growth at the expense of educational standards. Weaknesses inherent in the assessment process at third level have enabled an increasing divergence between academic performance and grades awarded.

Grade inflation undermines the status of qualifications and misleads the stakeholders in education, such as students, employers and policy-makers. It inevitably results in a continuing decline in the quality of education, with serious long-term implications for the competitiveness of the Irish economy.

The Network for Irish Educational Standards is a web based forum founded in response to this growing threat to the quality of our educational qualifications and the educational system as a whole.

The full details of the research findings and related documents can be downloaded from this website.