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July 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Making the Grade

A current proposal to change Victoria’s grading system could make it harder to get high grades, but easier to pass some courses.

The University’s proposed pair of amendments would bring Victoria’s grades up to the level of the rest of New Zealand’s tertiary institutions, and provide extra consideration to those on the borderline of a pass or fail grade. Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Peter Thirkell told Salient the changes would align Victoria with international best practise.

“The intention is not to make it any harder for students to achieve a particular grade but to harmonise Victoria’s grading system with that of other universities.”

The first amendment will introduce a new C- grade as the lowest-possible grade for a pass. This would be in the mark range of 50-54 per cent, replacing the current C grade. Subsequently, all mark ranges will be pushed up by 5 per cent, with A+ corresponding to a mark of 90-100 per cent instead of the current 85-100 per cent. This will affect grading at all levels of study, including postgraduate.

The second amendment would see the inclusion of a ‘Restricted Pass’ (RP) grade for those who complete the course on the margin of passing or failing. Restricted Passes will only be awarded to those taking 100- and 200-level courses, and will be conducted on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the course coordinator. An RP mark would be expected to correspond to a ‘high D’ grade, with the mark range of 47-49 per cent, and like a typical D grade, cannot be used as a prerequisite.

“The provision for a Restricted Pass would be exercised carefully and on a limited basis,” said Thirkell.

“However, it would provide staff and students with flexibility in situations where a student has demonstrated knowledge of the course content but not at a level sufficient to advance to a higher level.”

Other New Zealand universities currently have restricted, or conceded passes.

The numerical mark for an A+ at Auckland, AUT, Canterbury, Lincoln and Otago is at 90-100 per cent. Under the current system, if a student from Victoria and a student from Otago both took the same 100-mark test in their subject and scored 85 each, the Victoria student would be awarded an A+ while the Otago student would only be given an A.

The proposed changes will take effect from 2014 if they are agreed upon by the Academic Board and University Council. Grades from before 2014 will not be retroactively changed in accordance with the new system, so an A grade achieved in 2013 will remain an A grade in 2014, despite a 2014 A grade being a different mark to a 2013 A grade.

“It is too soon to provide detail on the impact any changes to grading will have, as decisions have not yet been made,” Thirkell told Salient.

VUWSA is currently conducting an online survey to gauge student opinion on the proposed changes. VUWSA President Rory McCourt said consultation had shown students were split over the changes.

“There are positives and draw backs in the proposal, and different impacts for different kinds of students,” McCourt said.

“Many students are concerned that getting A+’s might be harder under the proposal, although scaling during a transition period might allay that. Others think the move to harmonise with other universities is a good one to protect the value of a Vic A+. We’ll continue participating in the debate and inform students as it progresses.”

Over 360 students have responded to VUWSA’s survey. You can take the VUWSA survey and have your say through the VUWSA Facebook page.

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