Warwick students want report cards with their traditional degrees

In a recent survey of students conducted by the Boar, four fifths of those polled say they like the current degree classification system, but 45 per cent would prefer a report card style degree system.

Eighteen universities across the UK are currently piloting a system where report cards will be included alongside the traditional honours degree classification of a First, Upper Second, Lower Second or Third.

These Higher Education Achievement Reports (HEARs) would supplement the current standard degree classification.

80 per cent of students polled said they were happy with the current degree classification, 7 per cent did not like it, whilst 13 per cent were indifferent or unsure.

On the other hand, 45 per cent of students said they would prefer a report card style system, while 41 per cent said they would not like it and 14 per cent were indifferent or unsure.

The HEARs will list individual module grades, including presentation skills and strengths or weaknesses within each module. Volunteer work and extracurricular activities will also be included in the document.

These Achievement Reports constitute an effort to help distinguish between students, as graduate employers often find it difficult to differentiate based on a single degree mark.

Many students were quite interested in the new approach. “It would help [employers] see you are good all round,” said Nicholas Houghton, a second year Chemistry student.

However, some students raised doubts about the practicality of HEARs.

One of the main concerns was whether a module list could work for subjects like Physics where one second year student was taking eleven modules, not including labs, in one year.

Evaluating presentation skills objectively was also a point of concern. “I think it could work as a theory…but I don’t think it would work long term,” said Pam Stallard, a final year French student.

Most of the students polled agreed that extra-curricular activities are important, but not everyone felt they should be included as part of the degree classification.

“They wouldn’t be extra-curricular then,” said John Speakman, a fourth year French and History student.

The main complaint from students about the current degree system was the discrepancy between the different ranges of a 2:1.

Ruth McIntyre, a second-year English Literature student commented, “A 60 and a 69 are both 2:1s. A 9 per cent difference is so much.”

Marcus Price, a third-year History student, said the system was “too arbitrary” and “doesn’t differentiate between candidates sufficiently”.

Actions to make the current degree classification system clearer at Warwick have already been undertaken with the implementation of the 17-point marking system.

This splits, for example, 2:1s into a high 2:1 of 68, a mid 2:1 of 65 and a low 2:1 of 62, and aims to make marks more accurate.

The new report card scheme follows the recommendations made in October 2007 by The Measuring and Recording Student Achievement Steering Group; known as the ‘Burgess Group’ because it was chaired by Professor Robert Burgess, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leicester.

The group produced the report Beyond the Honours Degree Classification which recommended the introduction of a single document, the HEAR.

The system has so far been trialled on students who have already graduated to make sure it is compatible with student data. However, starting this year it will be used in current students’ records at the pilot institutions. The first formal HEAR reports will be in the 2010/2011 academic year if the trials are a success.

Peter Dunn, spokesman for the University, said, “In general we are supportive of Professors Burgess’ viewpoint. We have no plans to change our current system as the debate and the pilot still are ongoing, but we are watching both the debate and the pilot with interest.”

The University of Leicester, the University of St Andrews, the University of Manchester and Newcastle University are among the eighteen institutions piloting the scheme. Students studying English, Biology, Accounting and the Creative Arts will be the first to experience the reports.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.