Partial grading system change

September 22, 2006

Leading Swedish universities are ditching the traditional three-scale grading system in favour of the European credit transfer scheme (Ects), despite its parliament's decision not to make it law.

Some departments at Stockholm University, for example, adopted the seven-step Ects scale at the start of this academic year. So, too, have five programmes at Stockholm's prestigious Royal Institute of Technology.

Mid-Sweden University, the University of Gävle, the Royal Institute and the rest of Stockholm University are set to follow suit next year.

The driving force behind the change is a strong desire among some university administrators to bring grades into line with the rest of Europe as part of the Bologna process.

The Bologna Declaration called for "a system of academic grades that are easy to read and compare", and Ects is the obvious candidate.

The Swedish parliament decided to allow universities to pick their own grading scale, and it seems some universities are keener than others to align with the rest of Europe.

Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg was sticking with the old Swedish system for the time being. "We're going to see what happens in the rest of the world," said vice-chancellor Peter Olsson. At Gävle, academics say Ects was being introduced for reasons beyond a desire to fall into line with the rest of Europe.

"We want our students to have the opportunity to study at Stockholm University. If Stockholm hadn't adopted the Ects grading scale then we wouldn't have done it either," said Karl-Eirik Westergren, head of undergraduate education and research.

With some Swedish universities adopting the Ects scale and others continuing to use the Swedish system, students and employers were likely to be confused.

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