According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), 46% of students in Britain graduate with a 2:1 — which is perhaps why seven top universities in this country, including the University of Nottingham, are thinking about scrapping honours classifications in favour of the American Grade Point Average (GPA).

The GPA system is believed to offer a more continuous scale of grading and will avoid the inevitable ‘cliff edges’ between boundaries. After all, there is little difference in achievement between students who receive a 59.5% at the end of their degree and those who receive a 60%, and yet these two values are miles apart in terms of degree classifications.

The universities of Nottingham, Birmingham, Sheffield, Warwick, York, LSE and UCL are all keen to move away from the ‘blanket’ classification of the 2:1, which encompasses achievements from 60% to 69%. UCL has moved with alacrity and is planning to test the new system within two years, declaring our current classification system as “not fit for purpose.”

The proposed system will credit those at the top of a degree classification whilst also acknowledging those at the ‘cut-off’ points of a degree boundary. The GPA model would be on a scale from 4 to 0, with the numbers representing the average of a student’s results rounded up to one decimal place and thus indicating specific academic progress.

Dr Paul Greatrix, registrar at the University of Nottingham said, “The whole climate has changed in the UK over the last few years and the majority of students are getting firsts or 2:1 degrees. It is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to distinguish between them.”

As a global university in the top 1% of universities worldwide, Nottingham believes that it would accrue numerous domestic and international benefits from the changeover. The switchover would be favourable for Nottingham’s campuses in China and Malaysia, which currently both employ the British honours classification system rather than the GPA model that is more commonly used in their countries. More students than ever are now choosing to study abroad and with Nottingham in talks to open another international campus in Shanghai, adopting the more universal degree classifications could be the most prudent option.

The University of Nottingham has released a statement in support of the switchover to the GPA model, claiming that its graduates would be “best-placed to compete in an increasingly global marketplace.” Considering that at least three million students worldwide are studying abroad, Nottingham and the other universities recognise that, compared to our relatively archaic system, the internationally reputable GPA model is the “preferred option”.

Settit Beyene

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3 Comments

  1. Betty
    October 28, 2011 at 15:27 — Reply

    “there is little difference in achievement between students who receive a 59.5% at the end of their degree and those who receive a 60%, and yet these two values are miles apart in terms of degree classifications.” Check with your school dear, I know at least in my school, a student who achieved a 59.5% would receive the same degree classification as one who achieved 60%.

  2. MS
    November 3, 2011 at 21:06 — Reply

    I think it depends on your department and university. I did once hear of a case exactly like that but it fluctuates.

  3. Annam
    July 9, 2015 at 00:44 — Reply

    Hi so if I achieved 59.5% would this be a 2.1.

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