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British Universities to Introduce GPA System

The current 200-year old degree classification system in Britain is set to be replaced by the American grade-point average (GPA) system in approximately 20 universities and colleges, in a pilot scheme intended to commence next year.

At present, universities mark undergraduate work on a scale of third, second, to first class. However, with an average of two-thirds of students graduating with upper-second class degrees, there has been concern that the existing marking system does not distinguish students’ achievements adequately.

In the American points system, work is marked on a scale of 0 to 4.25 over the course of their degree, which many believe more accurately illustrates the abilities of students. With the highest grade being a 4.25, an equivalent of a high first, other classifications are distinguished by margins of 0.5. A lower second-class is correspondent to 3.00, and an upper second-class equivalent to 3.50.

One of the advantages of introducing the system into UK universities is that, unlike the current system, students would not narrowly miss out on a higher grade. In Britain, the difference between an upper second-class and a lower second-class could be barely less than 1%, but in the job market, it could mean potentially getting a very different salary.

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh, one of the universities involved in the pilot scheme, said: “We have no plans to replace the existing divisions of degrees, but are exploring alternatives and supplements that might help our students as they move into employment.”

The system would be particularly advantageous to students wishing to pursue a career overseas upon graduation, as many international employers often do not recognise the current British grading system.

Institutions such as The University of Hong Kong have been providing students with a GPA as well as degree classifications, as this is thought to present a clearer representation of students’ academic achievements.

It has not yet been confirmed whether the 2014 scheme, developed by The Higher Education Academy, will continue to run following the pilot trial. The University of Nottingham announced that it will test the system, but that “no decision has been made by the university regarding any action beyond 2013/2014.”


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