The first class honours degree is the ultimate prize for UK undergraduates. It is a symbol of being the best of the best. Undoubtedly, this is the case for some students. Yet the statistics for the number of first class honours degrees awarded by UK Higher Education Institutions (‘universities’ to most of us) shows, well, things aren’t what they used to be.
There is a competitive problem for universities. Undoubtedly, awarding first class degrees is attractive to students, their families, and employers. It is a symbol of perceived quality. And so, there is an incentive to increase the number of firsts awarded. Which makes competitors less attractive, which leads them to award more firsts, which… well, you can see the problem.
And the figures say it all. In the graph below, I have plotted the percentage of firsts awarded in the UK. Over a 11 year period, this percentage has doubled. While arguably being not quite exponential growth, the upward trajectory is clear. Which indicates that this problem isn’t going away.
But what to do? Put a government imposed limit on the percentage of firsts allowed? That would work, but universities would argue that they have a better intake so should be allowed to award more. Scrap the degree classification and report marks? That would be useful, but there is no comparison between students. Maybe a rank position would work. Yes, that may be the best solution. But then how do you compare between universities? Self-confident universities need to stand up and take the lead in declaring that their first is not the same as another university’s first. The question is which ones – and when?
Agent-Based Modeling Toolkits: NetLogo, RePast, and Swarm (2005, Academy of Management Learning and Education 4(4), 525–527) sets out a comparison of three widely used agent-based modeling toolkits: RePast, NetLogo, and Swarm. It shows the differences between the toolkits, setting out the advantages, disadvantages, and limitations of each software toolkit.
And, lo and behold, we are treated to the delights of the requests made to Rory Stewart OBE MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. Discussions abound about Guinness (‘And a jolly good drink it is, too’), an 18-point manifesto for cup eradication, something about quality control and Pareto, an offer of free cups together with a very scary disclaimer, and finally a letter with far too many ‘inverted’ commas.
Do give them a read. Although probably best if you don’t print them out.
Behavioral Operational Research: Theory, Methodology and Practice(Martin Kunc, Jonathan Malpass, Leroy Wright, Eds.) was published by Palgrave Macmillan in September 2016. My chapter on Agent-Based Modeling and Behavioral Operational Research shows the great potential of using agent-based simulation within BOR, showing how example models can be applied to the field. More details of the chapter can be found on the Palgrave Macmillan site here (DOI:10.1057/978-1-137-53551-1_7).
The Dynamics of Strategy is a book published by Oxford University Press (Robertson and Caldart 2010) and combines natural science models with strategic management. Chapters on networks, agent-based modelling, and dynamic economic models are used to show how strategy can be treated analytically.