In a recent article on the Times Higher Education Supplement’s website – View it here – it is mentioned both that Russell Group Universities wish to introduce and that the NUS have voted against an American-style grade point average system. An accurate description of what this system entails or how it works would take up far too many words here; indeed, one could write a book. Its complexity, however, is not the most disturbing aspect of the proposal. Although that certainly compliments the far more sinister motivations behind the suggestion.
There are two angles in particular that need to be examined: the first is the suggestion that it would eliminate the ‘”cliff edge” effect whereby all graduates with a 2:2 are ruled out by some employers’ and the second is the claim that it will ‘encourage students to work harder’.
Of the first argument, if it can intelligibly be described as such, I think the immediate response should be: do you really think employers are that stupid? There is a reason that students with 2:2s are ruled out, and it’s not simply prejudice. The employers don’t rate the degrees, or the students receiving them. Changing the grading system will make it more difficult for a while to tell which students are good and which are not but they will eventually catch up. It’s like giving a new coat of paint to a boat with a gaping hole in the bottom, hoping that its buoyancy will be improved thereby.
Of the second, that it will make the students harder working, one can only say that it is somewhat like loading a mule with a pile of bricks on the theory that that will make its journey more worthwhile. If the requirements for each component of a course remain the same, then the fact that it is now also required that students should expend equal effort on all elements, not, it must be said, the most revolutionary shift from the current situation, will only change the quantity of work but not the quality.