If you want to know why US undergraduate (and even some graduate) degrees are increasingly regarded with scorn by overseas universities, look no further than this article in Slate by a professor who's simply given up on 'grade inflation'.
Each course I teach has a meticulous assessment breakdown, taking into account participation, homework, quizzes, and essays—and for the latter, I grade with a rubric, which both minimizes griping and allows me to be slightly fair. But even with all of these “hard-ass” measures, the ugly truth is that to get below a B+ in my class, you have to be a total screw-up. I’m still strict with my scale—it’s just that said scale now goes from “great” to “awesome.” It’s pathetic, I know. But when you see what professors today are up against, maybe you’ll understand.
If I graded truly fairly—as in, a C means actual average work—the “customers” would do their level best to ruin my life.
. . .
Where did students get the gumption to treat a grade as the opening move in a set of negotiations? As a professor, there is little worse than spending an entire semester attempting to connect about a subject you find both interesting and important, only to have them ignore everything you do until the moment their GPA is affected. And then, of course, it’s war.
. . .
But it doesn’t start in college. Thanks to American K-12’s relentless culture of assessment and testing, everything our students have done since the age of 5 has been graded—but almost all of those grades have been “exceptional,” so the exception is now the norm. Now we’ve got high schools with 34 co-valedictorians—hell, why not just make everyone valedictorian, just for being alive?—et voila, students enter college having never gotten anything but an A for their entire lives.
. . .
Although exceptions exist, the trend in U.S. higher ed at the moment is precarious faculty, hired semester to semester or at best year to year, and rehired based almost solely on student evaluations—which, alas, are themselves often based on how “well” the student is doing in class. Adjuncts like me regularly admit to grade inflating, simply as a survival measure, but the consistency of nationwide trends means that even tenured and tenure-track faculty must be inflating grades, too. After all, a pissed-off student who goes all the way to the dean can impact their careers as well.
There's more at the link.
Frankly, I find this not only incomprehensible, but disgusting. Of course, I come out of a very different academic background. I did my university qualifications (two undergraduate and two post-graduate) in South Africa, under a much more rigorous grading system. I graduated my last degree cum laude, having achieved an average score of over 75% in the final examinations - and that was considered so exceptional that fewer than 5% of graduates received that accolade. Here in the USA, 75% would be considered a pretty poor grade. I wonder what mark my papers would have received from a US professor? Probably close to 100%, if the article is anything to go by . . .
I've known for a long time that many US degrees are regarded with skepticism by overseas universities. Some of my former colleagues in the ministry were a bit incensed (you should pardon the expression) to learn that I would be admitted to a Licentiate (post-graduate) degree in Europe on the strength of my South African Bachelor's qualification, while they needed a US Master's degree to be admitted to the same course of study. It's a graphic illustration of how US tertiary education standards have slipped - and the same applies in many (although not all) fields.
The question is, what can be done about it? I suspect that only the rise of online education, where the Internet levels the playing-field and exposes everyone, student and professor alike, to a uniform standard of excellence to which they must aspire, will finally destroy many of the 'old guard' bastions and let fresh air into the stultifying halls of academia.