Pointless exercise

April 5, 2002

The National University of Ireland is lowering degree thresholds to 60 from 62 and from 55 to 50 per cent as the lower boundaries of 2:2 and 2:1 grades ("Irish looking to widen grading bands", THES , March 29).

Degree-level assessment is not a mere counting of ticks. Are not Irish academics marking to grades with the "percentage" awarded acting as the collegially agreed flag of categories such as "bare 2:2", "mid 2:1", etc? Even "objective" testing requires reassessment of the relationship of raw "scores" to grades before assigning the latter. Relabelling the meaning of 61 per cent or 53 per cent will not change student distribution among grades. Unless there is a conscious lowering of the standards required to assign the various grades, very little will change.

David Miller
Biomedical and life sciences
University of Glasgow

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