Is grade inflation really a problem at the PhD level? Isn’t the assumption at the graduate level that each student should be expected to do “A” grade work?

I’ve taught a lot of places and I’ve never heard of grade inflation being an issue in any PhD program — though it is a problem at the undergrad level.

I confess to being confused by the idea of PhD level grade inflation especially when the undergraduate grade scale from A-F is being enforced at the PhD level where — in many PhD programs — a GPA below a 3.0 gets you put on academic probation. So anything below a “B” grade is really an “F” grade in a graduate grading system.

An “A” grade in a PhD program is the sort of work one would expect from a PhD student — so “grade inflation” is not grade inflation — it is the necessary norm. If this grade inflation “correction” is an answer for students who do not pass qualifying or comprehensive exams, the problem should be addressed at the admissions level and not on the grading level for those already in the program.

Advising philosophy suggests taking the core first and then electives. If there is a directed effort to aggressively lower PhD course grades then it makes more sense for beginning students to take electives first to build up and protect the GPA and then take the harder core classes later.

To start a program with difficult core courses where the new faculty philosophy is to address grade inflation is academic suicide.

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