Leader: Degree review overdue

November 5, 2004

When two of the six traditional degree classifications are virtually redundant and the most common award of 20 years ago is regarded by many students as akin to failure, the case for reform is not difficult to make.

The Burgess report duly makes it. But the scoping group's proposal to spend another year deciding what should take its place is hardly calculated to persuade ministers or employers that this is an issue deserving of their attention. Up to now, employers have resisted any change to a system with which they are familiar. But even the most conservative of them must realise that the hegemony of the upper second is robbing them of the ability to distinguish between promising candidates.

Robert Burgess is reluctant to see three or four years' work reduced to a single grade-point average, but he knows that employers (and probably politicians) will want something simpler to digest than a comprehensive but unwieldy student profile. Putting the decision off for a year will not make this dilemma any easier to solve; whenever it is taken, there will have to be compromise. The sooner a firm recommendation allows that process to begin, the better.

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