Norwegian universities converted to a new grading system a couple of years ago, using letters instead of numbers, and at about the same time the standard undergraduate degree was chopped from a four year cand. mag. to a three year Bachelor degree. Now the powers that be have found that grades awarded to MAs are worse than they used to be for the old hovedfag, as this graph of grades given throughout Norway last year shows.
My impression is that more students expect to do an MA than expected to do a hovedfag. It’s a shorter degree in total, though our expectations for the students write a research thesis are almost the same. They’re spending a year on the thesis now, against a year and a quarter previously. Well, in practice most spend far more than a year; they have great difficulties in completing it, partly, I suspect, because quite a lot of MA students really don’t want to spend a year writing a thesis. There are probably other forms of education or training they’d be a lot happier with. I mean, look at those statistics: 20% of MA students get an E or actually fail? And that’s not even counting the huge percentage of MA students who never finish.
There are a lot of students at university who don’t really seem to want to be at university, who don’t put a lot of work into their studies and/or who I’d imagine would be far happier doing something else.