Following participation in a successful Higher Education Academy pilot scheme, The University of Leeds is considering the possibility of introducing a grade point average system.
The GPA system would run concurrently with the traditional degree classification system, but where the latter does not consider first year grades in its final marks, the GPA system does.
Whilst possible timings for the introduction of the system are still being discussed, it has been confirmed that no students currently at the university will be impacted. Despite this, there are fears that if it is introduced for the 2018-19 academic year, many of those affected will have already applied.
The University of Leeds have made an active choice to begin planning for the introduction of this system, with many UK Universities yet to signal any intent to do so. The GPA system is attractive in that it is a recognised system internationally, and therefore affords students greater opportunities overseas. Moreover, with approximately 75% of UK students graduating with either a first class or upper second class honours in the last academic year, there is a need for greater specificity of grades.
A university spokesperson said:
“At Leeds, we are committed to developing independent, critical thinkers through our innovative programme of research-based education, our strong emphasis on extracurricular activities and by providing an exceptional student experience. The GPA system and the Honours Degree Classification system measure and demonstrate different things and together give a rounded and detailed picture of a student’s achievements at university, but students will have the choice about whether they refer to it or not. In addition, one of the main drivers for the University looking
into GPA is to prevent our graduates being disadvantaged if graduate recruiters start asking for it, as they do in the US. Students continue to be involved in discussions.”
The conclusions made from the HEA pilot advocated a “dual running” of the systems, but also suggested
that using GPA had more benefits “in the longer term”.
Despite this, The University of Leeds has made clear they have no plan to move away from the currently used system, merely to run both concurrently. Within the student body, opposition to the introduction of GPA has been strong. At the LUU Better University Forum on the 30th January, the student panel voted against the system being applicable to first year grades. Following this, it is now union policy to be against the inclusion of first year marks in the new system. The university argue that this is actually imperative so that the system can be comparable to that used in nations like the United States.
In the lively debate, many valid reasons were raised against the introduction of the system. The potential increase of stress for first year students was argued to lead to a spike in mental health issues, which could also is proportionately affect mature students, low-income students and international students who often require a ‘bedding-in’ period in their first year of study.
Moreover, it was argued that the increase of pressure in first year would lead to less exploration and holistic learning in students, both in discovery modules and extra-curricular activities. Finally, school specific styles of marking – namely whether they adopt a style which sees you marked at the same level across all three years, or specific to your current degree level – means that GPA could potentially impact different subjects in a variety of ways.
LUU Education Officer, Zaki Kaf Al-Ghazal added:
“I was happy to see that policy mandating LUU to lobby the university on first year grades being discounted from the proposed GPA. A student’s first year should not count as part of their overall mark for their degree; first year is a tough period where settling in and adjusting to a very different style of study can be challenging. It should remain a transition period and it’s not healthy for students to be worrying about grades from the moment they arrive.”