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September 24, 2018 | by  | in News |
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Tougher Marks Affect Law Students

Students at Victoria University’s Law School may have to suffer the consequences of Victoria’s tougher grading scheme.
Anonymised examination results from 2013-2017, given by three of New Zealand’s top law schools, showed results from across the degree were substantially lower at Victoria than at both Otago and Auckland Universities. Results from Laws 121, an entry level law course at Victoria, seemed to fail more students than the other two schools did combined.
Students have raised concern that this harsh marking system could affect employment opportunities and their overall mental well-being.
Second year law student Helena Avery commented that the result difference should be made available to prospective students, to avoid later frustrations.
“Not making [the information available] is no doubt bound to have an effect on students’ mental health, therefore the more information available about marking standards, especially against other universities, the better.”
Isaac Rusholme-Cobb, a first year law student, however, sees mark competition as a personal problem rather than a consequence of law as a degree. “I know there are people who feel competitive about their grades but that’s more their personality traits than due to law school.”
Victoria University Student Health understood the pressure that grades have on student’s mental wellbeing. Manager of Student Counselling Gerard Hoffman said they had mechanisms to help students cope with less than perfect results.

“We try to encourage students to adopt a more balanced view of what is an achievement. To cope with less than perfect grades, students should try to adopt this more balanced view of achievement and remember why they are studying in the first place.”
Dr Hoffman said that, “grades in themselves do not tell the whole story about what they have learned from their studies. We know that personal qualities such as resilience, interpersonal skills, and emotional intelligence are hugely desirable qualities by employers (and prospective life partners), not just high grades”.
VUWLSS President Fletcher Boswell, along with Nathan Tse, and Maddy Nash (as NZ Law Students’ Association Education VP) met with the school leadership to discuss these findings.
The dean of the school made clear that the results did not imply lower quality. He was also concerned about employability problems the results could cause, and wanted to “take steps to remedy these apparent differences, including by personally approaching employers”.
Jeffrey Wang, a Victoria student, saw issues with employability. “The main issue with the GPA I feel is more when you go overseas, as I feel like New Zealand employers are more likely to be aware of the discrepancies.”
However, students from other law schools were dismissive of the results of the OIA.
Josh Meikle, a student at Otago’s School of Law, felt that too much focus was had by law students on their results, and their university aimed to prevent this. “This competition that develops from a large focus on grades can also potentially be divisive.”

Wayne Saldanha, of Auckland University Law School, felt that Aucklanders were quite dismissive of the discrepancies.

“People I have talked to up here feel that it’s pretty even, and it just seems that it’s lower [in Wellington].”
Victoria University School of Law said that these results were indicative of the high standard of the Victoria law degree. “To obtain a law degree from Victoria you need to demonstrate significant knowledge, skill, and diligence – one of the many reasons we are exceptionally proud of our graduates.”

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