Inflation buster?

The Times Higher Education journalist (and director of the journal’s global rankings), Phil Baty, recently ran an informal Twitter poll in which he asked whether it was time to abandon degree classification and adopt the grade point average framework. Of those who responded, 65 per cent were in favour of this particular reform. This is not of course a scientific survey, but has it become more and more inevitable, in the light of the claimed trend of grade inflation, that there will be change in the traditional way of classifying student performance?

Or is the time right for this particular reform, but for reasons unrelated to the charge of grade inflation? Some UK universities have already adopted the grade point average system – it may make sense to review how this has worked for them.

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3 Comments on “Inflation buster?”

  1. Vincent Says:

    I’m one of those that are at the otherside of the EU evening up that occurred in the early 2000s. I hadn’t realised how it played, but anyone that lost in that shake up could lose quite a bit of money.
    So then how will this work. Will anyone with a 2:1 2;2 2;3 be graded to their mark. And where then does a 1st sit from back in the day. Some people are in for a shock.


  2. This is also an example of how academics in general are clueless about the quite technical topic of Measurement, but still their hubris leads them to hold opinions with confidence in fields unconnected with their own expertise. When you take an estimate of student learning as a percentage, which also has a margin of error and a confidence level associated with it and place it in a band you lose information and when you aggregate this with other grades you lose accuracy. To add to this, i’ve come across guidelines for converting percentages to grades that have not been properly calibrated (and those involved unaware of the concept) that yielded higher grades through the GPA system. Of course perhaps it is relatively unimportant when we consider that very few of us really know how to devise assessments that accurately measure the learning outcomes anyway. Add that to the numerous procedures that we have to follow to cover our arses as opposed to actually guaranteeing good outcomes and it becomes clear that what we call Quality Assurance in education is really a farce compared to what real QA professionals in industry do.


  3. There is extensive US experience of grade-point averaging. It certainly does not prevent inflation.

    I think it is a thoroughly bad idea. The student who is outstanding in one area, but weaker in another one which may be peripheral to their interests, will lose out to the Straight A student who is merely very good indeed all round. This outcome is surely the opposite of what we want.

    But what do we want?


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