According to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request, Film Studies awarded the least First Class honours for the second year running, with no students graduating with the top mark last year and only six per cent in 2013/14. This was followed by the Law School, who saw only eight per cent of students graduating with a first in 2014/15.
In contrast, the Medical School awarded 48 per cent of their undergraduates with a First Class degree, while 40 per cent of Economics students left university with the top grade.
The College of Social Sciences and International Studies has consistently had the least amount of students graduating with a First (13 per cent). Meanwhile, Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences, outside of the Medical School, award the highest quantity, with 30 per cent of students achieving Firsts.
Computing saw the biggest drop in Firsts awarded – falling from 36 percent in 2013/14 to 15 per cent in 2014/15. Physics and Astronomy also experienced a large decrease, with 19 per cent less students graduating with a First.
Professor Andrew McRae, Head of English and Film, commented: “The main issue here is the small cohorts taking Film Studies as a single-honours programme (six last year, eight the year before). This makes comparisons with bigger programmes problematic, because the percentages can fluctuate significantly from year to year. Overall, we’re happy with the standard of the students, and I’m confident in the team of careful, objective markers whose work is consistently confirmed by external examiners.”
The total number of First Class honours awarded also dropped last year, from 888 to 830. The number of Thirds issued by the University, however, doubled, from 33 in 2013/14 to 66 in 2014/15.
The Business School handed out 18 more Thirds last year – 31 in total – while the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences awarded 17 Thirds overall, ten more than the previous year.
Despite the dip in total First Class honours, Upper Second Class degrees awarded increased in the last academic year. In 2014/15, 85 per cent of students left the University with a high 2:1 or above, a drop of two per cent from 2013/14.
A spokesperson for the University said: “We are confident our focus on world-class, research-inspired and inquiry-led teaching is borne out by our degree results over a sustained period.
“Clearly, a First-Class degree from Exeter is one of the strongest academic qualifications in the UK, and that more than 800 students achieved this demonstrates the excellence not only of our student cohort, but our academics as well.
“Furthermore, with the number of 2:1s increasing, we believe all our degree courses offer an academically demanding, yet inspiring environment in which our students not only flourish, but also gain the graduate skills and knowledge required as they embark on a successful career path.”