Somewhere else, part 107

Universities are famously resistant to change and the ancient universities especially so. “I am always a bit sad when practices drop into history and are never heard of again,” says David Palfreyman, bursar of New College, Oxford. “The Oxford First is a cultural thing, but higher education is globalised now. We are serving a clientele that is going to be seeking jobs around the world, so for us to be babbling on about quaint Firsts and Seconds is perhaps a bit beside the point.” The reformers regard the current system as too crude, too much of a blunt instrument, and believe an American-style system would give better information to employers and be fairer to students. Instead of a simple number to represent a student’s achievement, the GPA would give an average from grades achieved through the student’s university course, resulting in a final GPA score. Under the system being trialled, students can score from zero to 4.25, the top score equal to a high First. A 3.75 would be equivalent to a low First and a 3.50 would be a good 2.1. Zero would be a fail. “Although the UK honours degree is a robust and highly valued qualification, it is clear that it needs updating and that graduates deserve more than simply a single number to sum up their academic work when they leave university,” says Burgess. The current system, established 200 years ago by Oxford when there were small numbers of undergraduates, makes it difficult to differentiate between students, according to employers. Large numbers of students now come out of university with a 2.1. which fails to distinguish between someone who attained 60 per cent and another who achieved 69.9 per cent. Employers want to know whether candidates came at the low or the high end of a classification. The GPA would give that extra detail, showing students’ average grade to two decimal points as they proceed through their degree. In a competitive job market, employers want more information about the candidates they are considering for jobs. “They have very little to go on at the moment,” says Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters. “When they are trying to work out which students to call in for interview, they need information that will help them to make that decision.” Students themselves complain that the present system is unfair. That is because at some universities, different departments have differing policies. Students in one department can find their marks upgraded by 2 per cent if they are considered to be on the borderline of a 2.1 and a First. Students in another department do not get that uplift, with consequent effect on their career prospects. The current system also divides students into two groups – those with a 2.1 and above, and those with a 2.2 and below. Students in the latter category often feel they have failed. One of the advantages of the GPA is that it avoids these “cliff edges” between degree classifications, offering a smoother and more continuous scale.” [to be continued….]

  • “Europe vs. the United States. Sunlight in hours per year” (small typo, green is 1600-1800)

(for Europe, it is mentioned on… and the comparison with the U.S. was mentioned on … see

and here is how this tweet got viral on January 2nd (thanks to @3wen who procuced this awesome graph!)

avec peu de lecture en français, si ce n’est le joli

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