GPA pilot takes off

Six Russell Group universities are among the 20 higher education institutions who will take part in a pilot of US-style degree classifications

October 30, 2013

The universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield and Southampton are among those who will test a grade point average system in a project run by the Higher Education Academy.

The “national GPA system” will provide an average from grades achieved throughout a student’s course, as distinct from the traditional honours degree classifications, such as a First, a 2.1 or a 2.2.

This extra information could run alongside current classifications if the one-year pilot is a success.

It follows concerns that honours classification is “not fit for purpose”, with the US system seen by some as offering a more “continuous scale” without the “cliff edges” between classifications.

Other institutions taking part in the pilot include the universities of Bangor, Leicester, Kingston, Northumbria, Oxford Brookes, Winchester and York St John.

The University of the West of England and the University of West Scotland will also take part.

University College London, which spearheaded plans to trial GPA back in 2011, is not listed among those involved in the pilot.

Sir Bob Burgess, vice-chancellor of the University of Leicester and chair of the HEA board, will oversee the pilot, as well as a two-year programme designed to inform a national discussion on degree assessment methods.

A further 25 institutions have indicated an interest in “engaging more broadly with a wider programme of activity to explore GPA”, the HEA added.

 Phil Levy, deputy chief executive for academic practice at the HEA, said he was “delighted” that the pilot will include a diverse range of higher education providers.

“It is essential that the proposed national GPA system is thoroughly tested in different institutional contexts. Only by doing this will the sector and wider public be able to understand whether GPA will enhance the student experience – both while they are studying and after graduation as they seek employment or further study,” he said.

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Reader's comments (1)

Whatever may come of this GPA pilot, I'm interested in the way that the higher has treated the 20 institutions who are taking part in the pilot. Clearly it is deemed news that some of the universities are in one particular mission group. These universities are listed at the top of the article, and attention is drawn to them. When the story was tweeted, it was emphasised even more. Later we learn of 'other' universities, but not of the colleges or the inclusion of the Open University. Clearly hierarchy is endemic, and maybe it is interesting that some research intensive universities will be in the pilot, but why do we need to lead with this?