I've spoken to many students recently. A huge number of them are repeating first year. The second time round they might drink less (or not) and manage to scrape 40% in six modules. This is interesting because, as has been reported elswere, Universities do not allow markers to fail people. It's bad for business. You can't charge £3000 annual tuition fees and leave the customer with nothing at the end of his three year party. What would the parents say? What if the customer sues you? What if you fall down the League Tables?
In order to pretend that they're selling real degrees the Universities are trying to make "students" attend classes. Good luck. Apart from compulsory lab classes and tutorials, my course has a 50% undergraduate non attendance rate. This is in one of the best departments in the UK.
Why fail them in first year and not the others? First year marks do not count towards a degree, so you're not compromising their final mark, but why fail them? They, and you the taxpayer, have to pay for another year's tuition. Remember the Universities are businesses, not a public service. They are obliged to maximise their income by any means neccessary.
It's a brilliant scam. It does however expose these institutions as cynical operators selling a product whose academic value has been debased beyond satire. Well, almost. It's often said that Queens should hang a sign on the door saying,
"If you can read this you're admitted"
Jordanstown already do.