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.