Dishonest to two decimal places

19th November 2004 at 00:00
Would it really be sensible to replace degree classifications by some other system, supposedly objective and more fine-grained?

Percentage marks do not and should not possess the kind of objectivity that would support their use in selection for jobs or other purposes.

Looking at the study by John Curran, published in The Times Higher Education Supplement ("First could be given for 51 per cent", November 5), one could conclude that it is much harder to get a first at London Metropolitan University than at the London School of Economics. Informed academic judgment would perceive the reverse to be the case.

We should be honest with employers, students and government: at university level, it is neither possible nor desirable to mark objectively, and honours are a mark of respect, not a measure of quality.

The introduction of grade-point averages to two decimal places would be spurious accuracy and a dishonest attempt to represent academic judgments as possessing the status of scientific measurement.

Julian Newman

Glasgow Caledonian University

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