Do honours graduates make the best doctors?
Criteria for honours differ markedly between schools
There is an ongoing debate in higher education in the UK regarding degree standards.1 The Higher Education Quality Council studied selected degree subjects (accountancy, biology, civil engineering, French, history, mathematics, physics, and politics) and showed that the proportion of first and upper second class degrees awarded has risen since 1980 and that there are interinstitutional variations within these subjects.2
Medical degrees awarded by British universities have not, so far, been subject to similar scrutiny. A direct comparison of medical degrees on the same basis as the HEQC study is not possible, as they are normally awarded on a pass or fail basis, often with the traditional “honours” or “distinction.” No studies have examined whether the proportion of such degrees has changed with time or whether the proportion varies between universities.
Medical education is going through a period of reform; recommendations for curriculum development have been made at the global, European