THE University of Essex has seen an increase in the share of students graduating with top degrees new figures have revealed.

New data released by the Office for Students shows the university has nearly doubled the percentage of graduates being award first-class degrees compared to a decade ago.

The figures show the proportion of graduates being award the top grade in the 2018-2019 year was 27.3 per cent.

This is a substantial increase from the 14.4 per cent recorded in the 2010-2011 year.

The new figures come after the university has seen a growth in the number of students attending in recent years and following efforts by the Government to crackdown on grade inflation.

Ministers have previously expressed concerns that grade inflation would lead to degrees being worth less to employers.

The figures for the University of Essex are in line with the rest of the country which as a whole has seen a nearly 90 per cent increase in students getting first-class degrees in the last eight years.

The proportion of students attaining top degrees in universities across England has risen from 15.7 per cent to 29.5 per cent.

While the University of Essex increase is substantial, other universities in the same region have seen bigger increases.

The University of East Anglia, Essex's main rival, saw a staggering increase from 13.5 per cent in 2010-2011 to 36.2 per cent in 2018-2019.

The Anglia Ruskin University Higher Education Corporation, which has campuses in Chelmsford and Cambridge, recorded an increase to 36.7 per cent from 14.5 per cent.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Madeline Eacott said: “At the University of Essex, maintaining academic standards really matters. 

"We want the amazing achievements of our students to be recognised in ways that accurately reflect what they have learnt. 

"We have rigorous systems in place to ensure the integrity of our degree classifications, including assessment by external examiners from outside of the University who check that we are applying rigorous academic standards consistently and in line with national qualifications frameworks.

“What the data suggest is that the wide ranging measures we have introduced to support student success are having an impact. 

"We’ve transformed the way we support our students in recent years.

"The Quality Assurance Agency commended Essex for the way we enhance student learning opportunities and the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework Panel praised us for ensuring ‘students from all backgrounds achieve outstanding outcomes’.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, added: “This data shows that the increase in the proportion of first class degrees awarded in 2018-19 has slowed compared to previous years, with a small increase from last year in the percentage of first class degrees which cannot be explained by other factors.

“While this may indicate that the brakes have been applied, it is clear that grade inflation remains a significant and pressing issue in English higher education.

“Unexplained grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in higher education, and devaluing the hard work of students. Degrees must stand the test of time, which is why the OfS will continue to address this issue at both a sector-wide and individual university level.

“Where we have concerns about unexplained grade inflation at any particular university or college, we are prepared to intervene to protect the integrity of the degree awarding system for all students.”