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July 22, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Grades Will Not B Changed Just Yet

The proposed changes to University grading have been delayed, with University management deciding to reconsider the proposal after numerous student and staff concerns with the changes were raised.

The changes went before Victoria’s Academic Board last Thursday, but it was recommended the proposal be reviewed by a lower body, the Academic Committee, as the Board was “significantly divided” on the issues. The Academic Board is a committee of University management which advises the University Council on courses of study, awards, and other academic matters, and is the final approval step before going on to the University Council.

The outcome is a win for students, who were generally opposed to any changes and whose concerns will now be part of a review. VUWSA President Rory McCourt told the Board 60 per cent of students opposed a C- grade, while 64 per cent believed it would have “major implications” for students. 44 per cent of students opposed the new Restricted Pass (RP) grade, while 39 per cent were in support. VUWSA’s survey yielded over 400 responses, a relatively high number for student consultation.

“No one has been able to answer, ‘will [courses] get harder?’” McCourt said of the proposal, and cautioned that the transitional period could have adverse effects on students.

“Are our current grades simply a cosmetic difference between the other universities, or are we actually marking easier? I think obviously the former, but that hasn’t been articulated.”

Different University faculties and staff were also split in their support for the proposal. For subjects like Law, a Restricted Pass would make no difference as a C grade already effectively prohibits carrying on to further study. For particular papers like STAT193, a course requirement for many Science students, a Restricted Pass would have allowed those who did not need it as a prerequisite to not have to resit the paper.

Other concerns raised included the possible effects on thresholds for Honours or further study, calculations for GPA, the value of the grade before and after the changes, and the increased discretion available to staff.

Students and staff were united in their view that it would be difficult to implement the changes fairly and evenly across all faculties, something the initial proposal did not cover in sufficient detail.

“[The changes] throw up a lot of uncertainties for students… students want to be able to know exactly where they stand in a course, what the options are available to them, and that they’ll be treated fairly throughout the University,” said McCourt.

As previously reported in Salient, the first amendment would have introduced a new C- grade as the lowest possible grade for a pass. This would have been in the mark range of 50-54 per cent, replacing the current C grade. Subsequently, all mark ranges would have been pushed up by 5 per cent. A Restricted Pass (RP) grade was also proposed, with students achieving between 47 and 49 per cent able to pass at the discretion of the lecturer, but not able to use the pass as a prerequisite. This would make high grades potentially harder to achieve, but would also make it easier to complete a degree if you had failed some courses by a small margin.

While students were represented at the meeting, since the dissolution of the Student Forum, six student seats with voting power on the Academic Board remain empty. It is unclear when these seats will be filled.

Sources have told Salient the revised proposal is now not expected to pass Academic Board by the end of the year. The Board has four meetings remaining in 2013.

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