Jo Johnson, the universities minister, has announced that the current system for marking degrees is outdated and will be obsolete, replaced by a new 13-point system.
This is because too many students are achieving 2:1s and firsts, and therefore employers are not receiving the information they need to differentiate better between thousands of graduates.
Statistics indicate that seven out of ten students graduate with a 2:1 or first degree, with the number of firsts achieved rising 300 per cent since 1990.
The new 13-point system, modelled on the systems in Denmark and the US, has so far been trialled in 20 universities during a two-year pilot by the government, and makes it easier to identify the best students, and reduces the apparent divide in class for those who fell just short of the next grade up.
“Businesses need a system that will help them identify the best applicants,” said Mr Johnson. “The UK’s standard model of classes of honours is on its own no longer capable of providing the recognition hardworking students deserve and the information employers require.”
“A new system would be most beneficial to those who fall just short of a grade boundary and are likely to be unfairly marginalised in favour of those whose average may only have been a point or two higher,” said Sorana Vieru, of the National Union of Students.
All universities are expected to sign up to the new system by 2020, which may include a university league table which measures not only the teaching quality at each institution, but also the amount of money their graduates go on to earn.
However, there are critics who are worried it could lead to some universities being at an unfair disadvantage. At some universities the majority of students are women, and the earning potential for women is often less than for men, which will impact the league tables negatively for such institutions.