OAKLAND, Calif. — Even as the Raptors celebrate their first NBA championship in franchise history, there will undoubtedly be naysayers downplaying the win because of the circumstances surrounding the victory.Golden State star Kevin Durant missed the first four games of the series with a right calf injury and tore his Achilles when he returned for Game 5 after his team fell behind 3-1. And with the Warriors in a solid rhythm and vying to knot things at three games apiece in Game 6 Thursday, Klay Thompson’s left knee buckled as he landed following a dunk attempt; the injury would later be revealed to be a torn ACL.No one in their right mind would ignore the reality of those brutal injuries, or the effect they had on what could have been an even more competitive series. But focusing too much on those issues arguably takes away from something that became clear about Toronto this season: The Raptors regularly took — and more often than not, capitalized on — calculated risks all year long. Those wise gambles played a key role in their success, both in the finals and leading up to it.Pay close attention, and you’ll notice that Toronto coach Nick Nurse experiments with several things1Like having his point guards dribble the ball to the middle of the floor, as opposed to over to a sideline, before calling a timeout. While this might fly under the radar for just about everyone, Warriors coach Steve Kerr picked up on it, and, after asking around, learned that doing so allowed a team to then select which side of the floor they wanted to inbound the ball from following the break. just enough to engineer an advantage for his team. He illustrated a willingness to try, more than once, some rare defenses that are seen more often at the middle-school level than in the NBA. The 51-year-old, who had coached almost everywhere before this, found success toward the end of Game 2 when he sent his team out to contain Stephen Curry with a box-and-one after Thompson went down that night. Using that look — and holding Curry scoreless with it in Game 2 — helped the Raptors feel comfortable tightening the screws on Curry with the same defensive scheme in Game 6, after Thompson was forced to exit again.Beyond that, Nurse opted to tweak his second-half starting lineup in Game 3 to include Fred VanVleet over Danny Green, even though Green had hit three triples in the first half. He stuck with that third-period shift the rest of the series, feeling that VanVleet’s ball-handling and stingy perimeter D on Curry were useful to begin the half.By now, we all know the first two changes the Raptors made, dating back to last summer. Team president Masai Ujiri jettisoned Dwane Casey, who would go on to win Coach of the Year, to replace him with Nurse, who had never been an NBA head coach. And the executive would later deal away Toronto’s all-time leading scorer, DeMar DeRozan, sending him to the Spurs to get Kawhi Leonard — a move that seems obvious in hindsight but also carried at least some risk, given Leonard’s quad issues and his unwillingness to commit to Toronto once his deal was up at the end of this season. (Also noteworthy: The Raps didn’t toss someone like Pascal Siakam, who later blossomed into one of the NBA’s most valuable players from a contract standpoint, into the deal to acquire Kawhi. Again, a highly calculated move.)Since then, the 27-year-old Leonard has rewarded Ujiri’s gamble by putting himself firmly in the conversation for best player in the world. Kawhi dominated long stretches of the conference semifinal series against the Sixers, then changed the complexion of the conference finals matchup with Milwaukee by taking defensive responsibility for likely league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. He moved on to Antetokounmpo for Games 3-6, and Toronto won all four of those contests to reach the finals. All told, Leonard finished with 732 points throughout the playoffs, the third most ever in one postseason — after LeBron James (748) in 2018 and Michael Jordan (759) in 1992.There’s also something to be said for the Raptors’ split-second decision-making on the court. They were the NBA’s most efficient team in transition, and they bludgeoned the turnover-prone Warriors with that ability in Game 1. (Golden State claimed to not know what to expect that night because of how long it had been since they’d played one another.) Toronto entered the postseason as the league’s best defense at recovering loose balls, and Kawhi made a living in the series off of traveling great distances to come up with momentum-shifting offensive boards.All those sorts of plays require a robot-like calculation of whether the risk is worth taking, but it generally felt as if Toronto — a long, deep club of high-IQ players — won those battles against the two-time defending champs. (There was one play where the Raptors’ bet didn’t pay off, and it tied the series.)For all the dice-rolling the Raptors did this season — we haven’t even mentioned the Marc Gasol trade, for instance — they took seemingly no risks with Leonard’s health and load management. Thursday had to have been incredibly sweet for Kawhi, given that he earned the title on the exact same floor where, just over two years ago, he suffered an ankle injury on a controversial play that almost immediately derailed his team’s chances of competing for a title.The Raptors were still incredibly fortunate in plenty of ways throughout this run. The absences of Durant and Thompson, for instance, allowed Nurse to deploy those aggressive zone hybrids on Curry, knowing that no other scoring threat would be able to take advantage. We wrote about the abundance of fortunate bounces on the rim the Raptors got during the playoffs, and Kyle Lowry — who was dominant Thursday — scored a key basket late that seemed to fit that profile.And years from now, we still may not have any explanation for what VanVleet did over these final four weeks of the postseason. We already mentioned that he defended Curry admirably, but he essentially became a different player altogether during the second half of the playoffs, killing opposing defenses with his long-range triples and devastating late-clock offense.Exactly two years ago today, we wrote a story that tried to imagine what a team that could beat the Warriors would look like. In it, we laid out what we believed to be the key factors: a club that could either beat or slow down Golden State in transition, a team with a lot of length and versatility, and a club that could shoot. With all of that in mind, we mentioned San Antonio, which still had Leonard at the time; a budding Milwaukee club; Boston; and Utah. (We weren’t as high on Cleveland because of the Cavs’ horrendous defense.) One team we didn’t even bother mentioning at the time was the Raptors, who had fared worse against the Warriors in the regular season over a three-year span than any other NBA club, in terms of minutes spent leading Golden State.But what that goes to show you is how aggressive Ujiri was in his overhaul of Toronto, not just acquiring Leonard’s otherworldly talent but also using Nurse’s ideas, Siakam’s length and Gasol’s floor spacing and defensive IQ.So, no: The Warriors weren’t at full strength for these NBA Finals. But if you think Toronto became a champion — and won 17 of the 24 quarters in this series — solely because of that, you’re selling the club short. The Raptors have been gambling for a long time now, and their ability to place bets at just the right time is a huge part of the reason they’ll be hosting a parade in the coming days.
Heading into last weekend’s PGA Championship, Australia’s Jason Day had cracked the top five in nearly a third of the major championships he’d entered. He finished in the top 10 nearly half of the time. But he’d never hoisted one of those shiny trophies they give the tournament winner. That changed Sunday, when Day won the PGA Championship, breaking the record for lowest to-par score (-20) in a major.Yet Day’s record-shattering performance also highlights just how easy it was to go under par at the majors this season. While Day’s week at the PGA ranks No. 1 according to cumulative strokes below par, it’s nowhere near the best in modern history1Which, for the purposes of this article, began in 1958 — the first year the PGA Championship adopted a stroke-play format. if we examine it using our familiar z-score system, which measures each performance relative to the field (by how many standard deviations a player’s score was below the field average, for players who made the cut).Z-scores reward not only excellence relative to par, but also dominance in comparison to one’s peers on the same course at the same time. And Day’s competitors also shot very well when held up to Whistling Straits’ par-72 standard: The average of players who made the cut was 3.6 strokes under par, which ranks fifth-lowest of any major tournament since 1958. That number explains the big disconnect between Day’s amazing to-par score and his middling (by major-winning standards) z-score:Last weekend’s low-scoring PGA Championship also capped off a season of great performances by the field in majors. July’s British Open featured the lowest to-par scoring average (-5.6) of any major since 1958, and April’s Masters Tournament (-2.4) ranked 11th-lowest. Combined, this year’s quartet of majors saw the lowest scoring average (relative to par) of any season since 1958, and the only time in that span that the average cut-maker across all majors in a season was under par.The majors in 2014 ranked second-lowest, so we’re seeing an unprecedented spate of low-scoring performances in recent seasons, though it’s not clear what’s driving the trend. We can turn to the usual sources of speculation: technological improvements outstripping course designs, a (subconscious?) movement toward friendlier scoring conditions to improve golf as a television product, an incredible font of young talent emerging in the wake of Tiger Woods’s heyday, etc.Whatever the cause, it’s leading to players like Day going low on the game’s biggest stage, even if their performances aren’t historically great relative to their peers.He didn’t win the PGA Championship, but Jordan Spieth is still having one of golf’s greatest seasons.
After weeks of golazos, flops and inaccurate estimates of stoppage time, the World Cup is nearly over. We’ve been tracking, and forecasting, each team’s chances as the tournament has unfolded, and we thought it would be fun to look back at how the final between France and Croatia got made. Our final pre-match predictions give France a 59 percent and Croatia a 41 percent of winning it all in Russia — but at the start of the knockout round, their chances of winning the trophy were only 8 percent and 6 percent, respectively. Here are the paths each team took to the final game.Check out our latest World Cup predictions.
Ohio State safety Jermale Hines was selected in round five by the St. Louis Rams with the 158th overall selection, joining former teammate James Laurinaitis. Hines played as a true freshman at OSU and found himself on the field early for special teams. His sophomore year, he played the “star” position at OSU, a linebacker-defensive back hybrid position. At 6-foot-1, 216 pounds, Hines excelled early on in his role, and could play many positions for the Rams. “I feel like I’m very versatile,” Hines said March 11 after his OSU Pro Day workout. “You can play me at a lot of different positions, and that’s something I feel will definitely help me.” Hines moved back to free safety his junior year, where he started for the Buckeyes for his final two seasons. Hines recorded 159 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks over his four years at OSU. Hines was also a part of four Big Ten championships and two BCS bowl wins, and was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010.
In the end it took a woman with a terrifying nickname and a secret notebook to end the curse of the penalty shoot-out.With the score 3-3 at the end of normal time in the Olympic women’s hockey final, a dreaded shoot out beckoned. One last hurdle before the team could claim a deserved gold.After years of failure at international level, up stepped goalkeeper Maddie Hinch to show that players from these islands can hold their nerve.A daunting sight in her pads and mask, the Team GB goalkeeper – known as ‘Mad Dog’ for her reckless bravery – blocked all four Dutch penalties.Meanwhile, Helen Richardson-Walsh capitalised on a foul by the Dutch keeper to score a penalty stroke, before Hollie Webb found the net, unleashing wild celebrations.It was one of the most rapturously received of Team GB’s many medals of the Rio 2016 games, forcing the postponement of BBC’s News at Ten and propelling the relatively niche sport on to the front pages.Behind the victory lay a team of women whose steel and determination has captured the imagination of viewers at home.The BBC said around 9 million people watched the final and Great Britain Hockey hopes the team’s success will lead to a surge in people wanting to take part in the sport.Alex Danson, Team GB’s striker, said: “That’s something the organisation feels – and us as athletes feel – so strongly about. We came here to do a job and if the by-product of that is people back home want to pick up a stick then please get to your clubs.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. There was passion aplenty, exemplified by Georgia Twigg, the 25-year-old trainee lawyer who collapsed during Wednesday’s semi-final after being hit in the face by the ball, only to go back on the pitch after receiving stitches.Kate Richardson-Walsh, the team captain, also knows all about the sport’s potential risks. During Team GB’s first match of the 2012 Games against Japan her jaw was fractured by a blow from a stick. Following surgery she returned, just three games later, wearing a protective mask.As well as bravery there had also been intense hours of preparation. Before the final Hinch, who studied sport and exercise science at Loughborough University, taped notes on to her water bottle with prompts for how she wanted to play the game. Maddie Hinch of Great Britain against Laurien Leurink of Netherlands during the Women’s Hockey final at the Rio 2016 OlympicsCredit:Fernando Soutello/Soutello/AGIF/REX/Shutterstock She also compiled a notebook outlining the Dutch player’s penalty-taking techniques. “The notebook is purely for the shoot-out,” she told The Telegraph after the match. “In there I have the players that I think will step up and for each of those players I have a plan of what I will do against them.“Under pressure players tend to resort to what they know best, so I come up with a plan and that gives me confidence. I definitely think that plays a mental game against them, because if I was them, I would be wondering what was in the book about me.”But, the 27-year-old from Pulborough, West Sussex, admitted that, despite her preparation, there had been nerves at the prospect of facing the Dutch. After all, the Netherlands are the world’s No 1 team, have won gold at the last two Olympics and are the reigning world champions. “Any hockey goalkeepers who say they have never closed their eyes and thought, ‘Please don’t hit me’, are lying,” said Hinch. Her start in goal was down to a PE teacher. “I was apparently incredibly dramatic playing rounders, diving everywhere for the ball, and Miss Lambert told me ‘we must get you in goal at hockey next term’,” she said. “I had never even really heard of hockey, I’d never seen it or played it. I think as a new kid they nominated me because no-one else wanted to put the pads on.“At first I didn’t enjoy it at all, I didn’t understand what could be enjoyable about it, putting on 15kg of smelly kit and rolling the ball out to other people all the time. But I found out that there are days when you are treated like a hero when you have a good game, and now I love it.” Team GB Women’s Hockey TeamCredit:Pip for Investec Hinch said she has been stunned by the reaction of the British public to the team’s triumph. “My brother texted me to say ‘you’re trending on Twitter’. He didn’t mention anything about the gold medal – that came later,” she said.“I’ve heard the viewing figures on TV were huge and that’s exactly what we do this for, so people will watch the sport. We were completely unaware of how much people were starting to pay attention to us.” The goalkeeper had almost given up hope of Olympic glory after failing to be picked in 2012.“I had my heart set on being reserve keeper at London 2012, but I missed out on that and that was a big knock to me, I just thought ‘will I ever get to play?’,” she said. Maddie Hinch’s water bottle, with added match notes Shona Mccallin and Maddie Hinch of Team GB celebrate victory after beating the Netherlands in the Rio 2016 Games Women’s Hockey finalCredit:Fernando Soutello/Soutello/AGIF/REX/Shutterstock Britain did not even qualify in women’s hockey for Athens 2004, so low had the fortunes of the sport fallen. But after a bronze in London, funding for hockey went up and led to a 25 per cent increase in women taking part.More are now surely set to follow where Hinch and her team-mates led the way.And that nickname? “I’ve been told that I’m a little bit nuts, but I think I’m one of the more sane people out there,” said Mad Dog. For Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh history was made in more ways than one. The pair became the first same-sex couple to ever win gold at the Olympics and the first married couple to win gold for Britain since Cyril and Dorothy Wright in the sailing in 1920.”To win an Olympic medal is special,” said Kate. “To win an Olympic medal with your wife there next to you, taking a penalty in the pressure moments is so special. We will cherish this for the rest of our lives.”Helen added: “It’s difficult to put into words what this means. Seventeen years ago, when I started my career, we were so far off this. It has taken so much hard work and it means absolutely everything.”The couple married in 2013, with the entire squad from the 2012 Games invited to the reception. Helen said recently: “Nobody had a problem with it before but it just wasn’t an open talking point. Now if you’ve got a boyfriend, girlfriend or are married it’s a non-issue. It’s not a taboo, it’s just part and parcel of who we are and it’s special. It makes me proud of my sport.”Next season they will be playing club hockey in Holland, where the game is the country’s second most popular sport after football, and Kate, now 36, confirmed that Friday night’s final would be her last international appearance.”I will retire as a reigning European champion with England and an Olympic champion with Great Britain,” she said. Several of her team-mates also faced obstacles on the way to glory.Defender Crista Cullen came out of retirement to play in Brazil. The 30-year-old had already returned to Kenya, her childhood home, where she obtained a pilot’s licence and set up a wildlife conservation business.But – having won bronze at London 2012 – she was persuaded to have one last attempt at gold in Rio.“To fight for an Olympic medal is what gets us up every morning, let alone to be in a gold medal match,” she said. Danson was initially turned away from England hockey trials because of her poor fitness levels.Undaunted she knuckled down and returned with a fitness rating higher than that required by the Royal Marines and went on to become the joint top scorer at London 2012.
A 14-year-old girl obsessed with serial killers prepared a “kill list” including the names of her friends, mother and brother before she attempted to murder her best friend by stabbing her at school, a court heard.A jury was told the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, lured her friend at the start of a school day to a quiet part of the grounds where she said she was going to give her a present.But James Newton-Price QC, prosecuting, told Winchester Crown Court that when the defendant had got her friend alone, she asked her to close her eyes and hold out her hand before she pulled out a kitchen knife and stabbed her in the chest.The girl escaped with a minor injury as she opened her eyes and managed to pull back as she saw the defendant lunge at her, the prosecutor said.He told the jury that the defendant had researched fatal stab wounds in the early hours of the morning of the alleged attack at the Hampshire school on April 25. Mr Newton-Price said: “The defendant was for a period of time obsessed with serial killers and school shootings and the notoriety that attaches to those who commit those crimes.”She had even at one stage prepared what she described in her own words as a ‘kill list’ of those she didn’t like at her school.”She had even thought about how to kill her own mother and brother and she discussed how to do so in the two or three weeks leading up to an incident in which she stabbed her friend at school.”It seems that she decided to kill her best friend. She had already researched online how to kill swiftly and effectively with a knife.”She carried out further research about the position of the heart and the fatality of stab wounds in the early hours leading up the incident.”Mr Newton-Price said that the defendant had targeted the friend out of revenge for tampering with her Instagram and Tumblr social media profiles in the previous summer.The defendant, who is now aged 15, denies charges of attempted murder and wounding with intent. She had even thought about how to kill her own mother and brother and she discussed how to do so in the two or three weeks leading up to an incident in which she stabbed her friend at schoolMr Newton-Price Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Show more “He was a very hard worker. He used to do a farming job and milk round at the weekend because they had six children to bring up.”Mr Mansfield said his father’s two passions were football and horse racing.He said: “He was a big fan of Georgie Best and Saturday would be football day and racing day. He would have 20p on six horses winning and if he won £2 or £3 he would have thought he won the lottery.”When I told him how much they bought (Manchester United player Paul) Pogba for, my dad just could not comprehend. His eyes were just dazzled.”He was old-fashioned and he always used to say ‘they need some wingers’.”Manchester United paid a world-record £89 million for Pogba this summer. A centenarian who was thought to be the oldest man in the UK and put his longevity down to drinking vinegar has died aged 108.John Mansfield, known as Jack, died on Sunday evening just weeks from his 109th birthday.In October he was named the oldest man in the country, according to the website Oldest in Britain, which relies on members of the public submitting information on people aged 105 and above.Mr Mansfield, who had six children with his late-wife, Beatrice, and also leaves behind 10 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and a great-great-grandchild, passed away in his sleep at Tynefield Court care home, in Etwall, Derbyshire at 5pm.He was born in Bradley, near Ashbourne, in December 1907, living through both world wars. His son, Richard Mansfield, paid tribute to the avid Manchester United fan, who worked at Co-op coal and did manual labour on farms for much of his working life.The 70-year-old, who lives in the same village of Mayfield, near Ashbourne, where his father had lived for 70 years before moving to the care home this year, said: “He swore by vinegar.”He would drink it. Last time I saw him alive on Saturday he had a bottle of vinegar on his table and it was half gone. He used to say, ‘if you’ve got an ailment drink some vinegar’.”Mr Mansfield said his father had even carried out manual labour until he was 98, when he helped plant an apple tree.”He was very independent up to then and he put himself to bed and got himself up and dressed. He would still go out in the garden on his two sticks. Show more
Mark DobsonCredit:Central A group of corrupt financiers who carried out a £245 million loan scam and squandered the profits on high-end prostitutes and luxury holidays are facing lengthy jail terms.Consultant David Mills, 59, bribed HBOS manager Lynden Scourfield, 54, with designer watches, sex parties and “boys’ jollies”.The perks were a reward in exchange for him agreeing inappropriate loans to struggling businesses, which allowed Mills and his associates to profit from high consultancy fees. Many of the businesses went bankrupt as a result and some of the owners lost their homes.Stephen Rowland, of the Crown Prosecution Service fraud division, said: “This had a very real impact on a lot of people, individuals who had worked had to build up companies.”They found themselves losing their companies and in many cases losing their homes as well as suffering enormous emotional strain and trauma.”There’s no way this was a victimless crime – as a result of this crime, real people suffered great hardship.” David Mills and his wife Alison arriving at courtCredit:ustavo Valiente/Central Mr Rowland said: “There was a very seedy side to this case and that’s indicative of the kind of mindset and the kind of sleazy elements of these kinds of crimes.”One company, Clode, was operating within its £2.9 million overdraft in 2002 when a meeting was held to discuss its financial position – its total indebtedness to the bank by 2007 was £20.558 million.Mills was found guilty of conspiracy to corrupt, four counts of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. His wife was convicted of conspiracy to conceal criminal property. Lynden ScourfieldCredit:Central News Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. John CartwrightCredit:Gustavo Valiente /Central Bancroft, who was convicted of conspiracy to corrupt, three counts of fraudulent trading and one of conspiracy to conceal criminal property, received £1 million in payments from Mills and the high-risk companies being helped by HBOS.Cartwright, from Hyde, Cheshire, was convicted of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property, while Dobson, from Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire, was found guilty of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to conceal criminal property.They are all due to be sentenced on Thursday. Scourfield’s accountant, Jonathan Cohen, 57, was acquitted of fraudulent trading and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. Mills and his wife Alison Mills, 51; Michael Bancroft, 73; Mark Dobson, 55; and John Cartwright, 71, were convicted of various roles in the fraud between 2003 and 2007 after a four-month trial at Southwark Crown Court.Scourfield, who pleaded guilty last year, looked after corporate customers experiencing financial difficulties at HBOS’s branch in Reading, Berkshire, until 2007 when he resigned.Mills lavished the banker with clothes, jewellery, luxury hotels, business-class flights and expensive meals at an oyster bar and a cheesecake restaurant.His wife also played an active role in the scheme. She invited Dobson and the Scourfields to go on trips to Ascot, while Mills, Bancroft, Scourfield and their wives holidayed together in Barbados to celebrate her 40th birthday. Michael BancroftCredit:GUSTAVO VALIENTE/Central Mills treated Scourfield to a Cartier watch worth more than £3,000, a Barbados trip and a six-star, all-inclusive cruise on the Mediterranean in the second most expensive accommodation on the ship, the two-bedroom Royal Suite.The pair attended several parties with high-end escorts at a flat in west London, where a number of sex acts were carried out.One woman who worked at Fantasy – a porn magazine company under Scourfield’s portfolio – said she was asked to arrange girls for the “posh t— banker friends”.
Staff tried to tranquilise the wolf after it was found outside the perimeter near the A361, but said it was out of range.Armed zookeepers were deployed and Ember was shot dead.A statement by the park said: “Had there been any way to save her we would, of course, have taken it.“Euthanasia is, and always would be, our last resort.”However, she had somehow escaped her enclosure and had made her way to an area that was beyond the range of a tranquiliser dart, and potentially within reach of a busy road.”The safety of our visitors, and the public, has to be our priority and our keepers were put in the unenviable position of making a decision that no animal lover should have to make.” Ember came to the Park in 2016Credit:Jackie Thomas/SWNS The park said it would bolster its “already robust” security checks to make sure there is no repeat escape. Visitors present at the time of the breakout, which was discovered at around 11 on Friday, claimed on social media keepers tried to tranquilise the wolf several times before resorting to a firearm.Cotswold Wildlife Park spokesman said: “As a precaution, all visitors and other staff were notified immediately.”Those that were indoors were asked to remain where they were.”At no time were members of the public in any danger as the wolf was away from the visitor area throughout.”To say we are devastated is an understatement.”The five cubs born this year were the first in first born in the history of the park.Ember and two-year-old male wolf Ash arrived at Cotswold Wildlife Park from Sweden in October 2016 as part of a breeding programme. Our keepers were put in the unenviable position of making a decision that no animal lover should have to makeCotswold Wildlife Park A wolf shot dead after escaping from a zoo may have climbed over a defective electric fence.Three-year-old Eurasian wolf Ember, who gave birth to five cubs this year, was killed by a keeper after being discovered outsider her enclosure at Cotswold Safari Park on Friday.An investigation by the park has now reportedly found the electric fence surrounding the pen was not properly charged, raising fears the animal simply climbed over. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Last year, the then universities minister Jo Johnson urged vice-Chancellors to tackle grade inflation Credit: Christopher Furlong Universities are ignoring students’ lowest module scores, a report has found, as it warns that the practise could lead to grade inflation.Dozens of institutions use the “discounting” mechanism to leave out the courses in which undergraduates got the poorest results when calculating a student’s final degree classification, according to a survey of universities.A report was conducted by Universities UK, the vice-Chancellor membership body, and Guild HE, a group for leaders of higher education institutions, following concern that institutions were seeking to boost results by manipulating their degree algorithm.It found that there is widespread variation in how universities calculate the degree classifications, including how much weight is given to modules in different years of study – known as the degree algorithm.“This project was undertaken because of concerns that design decisions on degree algorithms were being systematically used to inflate the proportion of first or upper second-class degrees awarded by an institution,” the report said. “If only the worst, outlying marks are omitted, it is possible that this would lead to grade inflation,” the report said.David Allen, a lecturer at the University of the West of England’s Bristol Business School, said “If you have university which is discounting [the worst grades] this must be inflating the grades. It didn’t take much to scratch the surface to see that this is pretty dire. It is an unfair system”.Mr Allen, who has researched the effects of varying degree algorithms, found that an institution could have double the proportion of first-class degree holders than another university with an identical set of student grades.Last year, the then universities minister Jo Johnson urged vice-Chancellors to tackle grade inflation which he said is “ripping” through universities. The problem risks creating a “dangerous impression of slipping standards”, he said.The proportion of students leaving university with top honours has reached record levels in the last five years, data released earlier this year shows.More than 104,000 students – or one in four – graduated with a top degree classification last year, a five-fold increase on the number graduating with a First in 1999. While it found “limited evidence” to suggest this is the case, the report concluded that there must be more accountable governance in place to oversee the issue of degree algorithms.It said that while the “discounting” mechanism is intended to “recognise consistent performance by omitting outliers” from the final degree classification, this is rarely how it is used in practise.