A report published today has recommended that the current system of degree classifications should be heavily reformed. The report recommends that a new system of grading, the Higher Education Achievement Record (Hear), should provide a detailed breakdown of marks and coursework, in addition to the current system of firsts, 2:1s, 2:2s and thirds. This would be the biggest change to the British degree ranking system in its 200 year history.
Proponents of the scheme, which has a proposed roll out date of 2010-2011, argue that it would give out more information about a candidate, which cannot be told under the current classifications. Bob Burgess, the Vice-Chancellor of Leicester University, and the chair of the enquiry team argues that "People ask why, if the system has been in place for some 200 years, is there a need to change? When the current system was established, there was a tiny higher education system. We've moved from an elite to a mass higher education system." A further point that is claimed is that the rise in the number of students achieving a first or 2:1 (now at 60%) has left many employers unsure if candidates are really suitable for jobs that they are theoretically qualified for. Certainly, it would help distinguish between students who scrape a 2:1, and those who miss a first by a whisker. Many league tables rank institutions based on the number of firsts and upper-seconds awarded, which may produce a temptation to artificially inflate grades.
However, doubts are already being expressed about the new system. Critics have argued that people would still be awarded one of the current degree classifications, which is what employers would still make the majority of their judgements on. Some believe a system such as in the USA, where students are given a Grade Point Average over their entire college career, would allow for a much clearer picture of candidates.
It is hoped that the scheme would allow employers to distinguish between candidates more easily. Of course a much better way could be to actually look at the candidates individually and base the decision on that, rather than basing their entire judgement on a person based on how they did on certain modules at university, which may not be particularly relevant for the job in question.