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This British uni is trialling a new grade system for final year students

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Earlier this week, it was announced that The University of Birmingham had introduced a voluntary Grade Point Awards (GPA) system for current final year students.

The international GPA system, currently only used by Oxford Brookes University in the UK, will be introduced in a trial-run before further decisions are made to implement the system in following years. This year, final year undergraduates will be given the choice whether to opt-in to receiving a GPA certificate in addition to the normal degree.

Students at the university are still yet to be addressed formally by the University about the plans to implement a GPA grading system, with the rumours initially circulating by word-of-mouth before being posted on a student Facebook page with over 20,000 members.

Last Friday, the plans were confirmed by the Guild Education Officer, Adam Goldstone on his blog post where he criticised the proposed changes.

He also published an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor outlining students concerns.

Guild officer's Facebook post

The letter to the Vice-Chancellor voices concerns on the expenditure of time and money on a “fundamentally flawed” system. It further requests that students be fully informed of the changes and consequences of opting-into GPA certificate.

There are currently over 610 signatures on the letter, with only one person supporting the GPA Type system.

What is the GPA system?

The GPA system, currently widespread in the USA, aims to demonstrate a student’s level of achievement on their degree course through taking a mean average of marks achieved across all university modules, on a scale between 0.00 and 4.24.

The Guild FAQ page has created a handy table to estimate how the current marking system may be converted into Birmingham GPA.

GPA table

According to the Guild website, The University believes that introducing the internationally-recognised GPA system will help students undertake work overseas. However, the Birmingham GPA, which is measured to 4.24, will not be comparable to the common international scales which are most commonly capped at 4.0.

The GPA is certainly more precise than the UK’s common degree classification system, it would provide employers with a more detailed grade of a student’s overall achievement level.

The Guild website states that ‘the University is also looking into rewarding the highest achievers in each discipline’, where the top percentage will be awarded a “cum laude” or “distinction” on their GPA certificate, helping them to stand out. 

Student responses to the news have been largely negative.

As Guild Education Officer, Goldstone has publicly announced his dislike of the proposed plans, writing that introducing something ‘so big, mid-degree, is at best bad practice, and at worst against the CMA guidance.'

"This whole system seems to benefit only the highest achieving students, who can get themselves a “cum laude” for being in the top percentage," Goldstone wrote.

"Not only does this then pit you against your classmates, which I fundamentally disagree with, it also introduces a system to cater to a minority of students.

"The University has a commitment to both its highest and lowest achieving students, and should act accordingly."

Furthermore, Goldstone also notes that one of the University’s key arguments in favour of introducing the GPA system is the positive feedback of students. However, with little student consultation having taken place so far and an overwhelmingly negative reaction taking place on student Facebook groups, this seems of little consequence.

Comments on Facebook include worries about the impact on student wellbeing caused by placing students in strict competition with each other and the elitism resulting from proposed “cum laude” awards to highest GPA percentages.

Facebook comment

Another user has criticised the University's blatant disregard for discussing significant changes with the student body.

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