One innovation about to appear in the British higher education scene is the ‘Higher Education Achievement Report’, or HEAR. Essentially, this will be an end-of-year report for each student setting out what the student has covered in her or his degree course and what they have achieved. This will then be handed to the student, who can use it for a variety of purposes, probably in particular when applying for jobs.

While it is inevitable that this document will replace the existing system of degree classifications, some have speculated that, over time, it might eclipse grades. Indeed, in the original report that first proposed the HEAR concept, exactly this outcome was sought:

‘We have designed a development process intentionally so that, as the work progresses, and the HEAR becomes established, the benefits in terms of the richness of information it yields about each individual student will increasingly come to be acknowledged and understood. As a consequence, we intend that the existing degree classification system will decline in importance until it should no longer be considered necessary…’

The expectation that students, employers and others will abandon grades in favour of a general report is probably naive. Grades are too much part of the culture of higher education and recruitment for employment, to mention nothing else, for that to happen. I suspect they will be with us for some time yet. Whether the HEAR concept will however add some colour to the marks is something we may want to observe with interest.

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6 Comments on “HEAR, HEAR?”

  1. Vince Says:

    Do you mind me asking, but has anyone really asked for this. Since at core what on earth will anyone do with the new info that isn’t available in the current form.
    Et, even now you have engineers employed in companies vastly overqualified for the positions they hold and all this will do is shove the effective pass mark, aka the mark that will get you a job, well beyond what’s believed the case inside the university.
    Agh, this has all the hallmarks of some sub sub-committee of the CBI tossing out some press communique before they’ve had a bite of lunch and some underused section of the CS deployed by Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB, KBE, MVO, MA (Oxon) ran with it

  2. Helen Finch Says:

    I tend to agree with Vince. Do employers really have the time and skills carefully to read through a HEAR? Is it not more valuable for the graduate to be able to construct their own narrative of why their achievements are relevant to each job they apply for, rather than making the employer do the legwork?

  3. Delarivier Says:

    What happens when a student doesn’t want every detail of marks or extracurricular activities revealed to a potential employer?

  4. “Grades are too much part of the culture of higher education and recruitment for employment, to mention nothing else, for that to happen.”

    Actually, there are a few robust higher education systems that don’t use your familiar degree classifications, including Australia’s, so that might suggest change is thinkable.

    In Australia, students graduate with a transcript detailing individual academic results in each subject/topic they’ve undertaken. They can include a calculated Weighted Average Mark if it’s relevant, but they don’t fall back into the traditional UK degree classifications unless they graduate with an extra thesis-focused Honours year–a tiny minority.

    There are plenty of institutions looking at adding extracurricular achievements to the formal transcript, and a whole lot of bustle in the edtech hedgerow from companies looking to find ways to add badges for MOOCs and other open courses to the overall picture.

    The parallel development is the rise of eportfolios where students assemble this material for themselves, along with accredited and graded work samples that they choose to make visible to employers alongside their CVs.

  5. There’s now a bit more comment on this post, and the culture of parochialism generally, at Music for Deckchairs.

    The issue that’s started to preoccupy me there is the power of the US to determine the direction and pace of change in global higher education, which has obvious consequences for smaller educational economies like ours, but also for those like the UK system that have some very sturdy cultural traditions, but might face changing business expectations.

    It’s a big world.

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