Degree details urged

October 19, 2007

Plans for a radical overhaul of the degree classification system have been shelved by the group set up to review the way student achievement is recorded.

Instead of scrapping the current system, which it has declared “not fit for purpose,” the fourth and final report from the Burgess Group recommends providing a de­tailed transcript of results — the Higher Education Achievement Re­port (Hear) — alongside an overall classification.

The transcripts, to be introduced by 2010-11, would include a breakdown of grades and credits to better detail academic strengths and weaknesses.

The group says firsts, seconds and thirds could become redundant if, as hoped, Hear becomes “the central vehicle” to record undergraduate achievement.

The goal is for “the existing degree classification system [to] decline in importance until it should no longer be considered necessary,” says the report, Be­yond the Honours Degree Classification. It says the practice of awarding an overall class of de­gree gives a sense of “signing off” on a student’s education, at odds with lifelong learning.

Robert Burgess, head of the group and vice-chancellor of Leicester University, said students deserved more than “a single number” to sum up their work.

The group’s previous proposals have included replacing the current system with pass/ fail and a small proportion of distinctions. This suggestion was abandoned after it re­ceived a mixed reaction.

Wes Streeting, vice-president of the National Union of Students, hailed the plans as a step in the right direction but said re­forms “have been frustrated by [those] who appear not to have grasped the necessity for change”.

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