In this paper we investigate whether grades are used by educational institutions as a competition variable to attract and retain students. Using a sample of almost 26,000 students enrolled at an Italian University, we document that grades vary significantly across degrees. After controlling for students’ characteristics, class-size, classmates’ quality and degree fixed effects, it emerges that students obtain better grades and are less likely to drop-out when their degree course experiences an excess of supply. We adopt an instrumental variable strategy to account for endogeneity problems and instrument the excess of supply by using the total number of universities offering each degree course. Our IV estimates confirm that the teaching staff on degree course facing low demand tend to set lower academic standards with the result that their students obtain better grades and have a lower probability of dropping out than they might otherwise.grades, higher education, grading standards
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