Education & Family

Points plan for degree grades

Image caption Universities are being urged to give points scores as well as degree grades

Universities should show students' achievement with points scores, as well as the existing degree grades, says a higher education advisory group.

A group of university experts is proposing a system giving more detailed information alongside grades such as first or upper second class degrees.

There have been 21 universities piloting such points-based measurements of student performance.

Graduate employers have backed the call for more detailed university grades.

The system being proposed is a "grade point average" (GPA), which would show students' achievement through their time in university. This would reflect results from work throughout a degree course.

The GPA advisory group, in a report published by the Higher Education Academy, says it would add another layer of detail to the current system of first, upper second (2:1), lower second (2:2) and third class degrees.

'Precise indicator'

It responds to concerns from employers that it is hard to distinguish between job applicants when more than half of all degrees awarded in the UK are now upper seconds.

The proposed system would provide a scale from 0 to 4.25, so for instance work marked as a C would have a grade point of 2.5, while a C+ would be a 2.75. An A- would be 3.75, while an A+ would be 4.25.

The intention is to provide a much more "granular" detail of students' achievements than a broad brush grade.

Sir Bob Burgess, the former vice chancellor of Leicester University, who has headed the advisory group, says adopting such a points-based system would "meet the vital need for a more precise indicator of degree grades and to provide students with a more internationally recognisable measure".

A grade point average system is used by universities in the United States.

Each individual university would still be able to decide how they would award points, so that a 2.5 grade in one institution could not necessarily be compared with the same score at another.

'Blunt instrument'

As well as deciding on their own marking, universities could choose whether or not to include first year exam results or to give extra weighting to final exams.

But the proposers say that it would provide more transparency than the current system.

"It's a scale based on evidence and not thought up in an armchair," said Prof Graham Curtis, part of the Higher Education Academy advisory group.

Employers backed the principle of more detailed grades.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, said it would provide "more information for employers to make a decision".

He said students would also "benefit from a fairer representation of their grades".

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the current degree grading system was recognised as a "blunt instrument".

And he said the proposals "provide a good platform now to test the value of GPA with the whole higher education sector".

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