University Panders to Dumb US Rating System

University Panders to Dumb US Rating System

The University of Otago will soon be including a Grade Point Average (GPA) on all students’ academic transcripts. Professor Vernon Squire, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said “presenting the GPA increases the portability of the academic transcript.” This will make it easier for Otago students to show off their transcripts overseas. “If you ever want to go to the US, [the GPA] is essential,” Squire said.

In planning the new system, “the major issue was how to calculate the GPA. We chose a nine-point scale because the scholarship system in New Zealand uses nine and other New Zealand universities use nine.” Students’ average academic performance will be rated using the letter grades achieved, with C- counting as 1.0 and A+ counting as a 9.0. The basic formal calculation is taken by averaging the rating of all undergraduate papers regardless of the year in which the papers were taken.

Papers and theses which use “pass” or “completed” grades in place of a letter grade will not be included in the GPA calculation. This includes papers completed on exchange.

Squire emphasised that different departments may also use different calculation methods. For instance, in determining postgraduate entrance “the Honours year may account for a higher value than prior papers.” Postgraduate medical school entrance also uses a different method of calculation.

Percentage grades will still be included, Squire said, as “GPA is based on a very quick assessment. It is still important to see specific paper grades.”
Problems with the GPA system occur “if you want to differentiate two very high-performing students. This is where showing the percentage average is still important.” For instance, a student who earns a percentage grade of 98 and a student who earns a 90 will both get the same rating under the GPA system, while a student who earns an 89 will get a lower rating. It may also be important to still do well in specific papers for different courses because “universities may see some papers as more valuable than others.”

The GPA grade will appear on transcripts “pretty soon.” Discussions about including the GPA on transcripts came during talks on the upgrade to the new Student Management System, due to go live in April 2014. The system will give students the ability to see their GPA online, as well as other course management capabilities.
This article first appeared in Issue 16, 2013.
Posted 3:59pm Sunday 21st July 2013 by Josie Cochrane.