The term Grade Point Average was a foreign term one would only hear in American films. Now, as the UK gradually becomes more influenced by America, we may be hearing more of that term in our universities.

Apparently the traditional first, second and third-class honours degrees do not distinguish students’ grades clearly enough. The idea is to give a more detailed account of student’s abilities through the proposed electronic grading system implemented by American colleges, or the well-known Grade Point Average (GPA).

Up to 20 universities are expected to scrap the tradition style in favour of the new, Nottingham, Birmingham and Edinburgh. The pilot scheme is already underway in universities such as Leicester, Bristol, Manchester and St Andrews and will finish in July 2014.  But no commitments have yet been made as to what will happen afterwards.

Professor Phil Levy, deputy chief executive of the Higher Education Academy said: "It is essential that the proposed national GPA system is thoroughly tested in different institutional contexts. Only by doing this will the sector and wider public be able to understand whether GPA will enhance the student experience, both while they are studying and after graduation as they seek employment or further study."

The grading system is recognised in many countries over the world so it would make international grading easier. It aims to help classify graduates into better jobs and make competition less fierce; currently, over two thirds of students are gaining upper second-class degrees. The new grading system will allow students to score up to 4.25 throughout their entire degree (the equivalent to a first). The equivalent of a low 2:1 will be 3.00 and a high 3.50. 

Back in 2011 when the idea was proposed, Robert Burgess, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Leicester stated that the idea was to help give a more rounded review of a student’s time at university: "The other thing is that the HEAR also records students' achievements in extra-curricular activities – a student who has represented the university in terms of sport or perhaps been conductor of the university orchestra."

While the plan is meant to be promising, nothing comes without teething problems. Of course employers and even lecturers for that matter will take time to get used to the system if it is implemented. Many already find the standard classification system confusing.

Emma Spencer


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