U of A switching marks

By Julian Cheung

Give it a little over two years, and University of Alberta students will be glad to see fours on their transcripts.

The U of A’s General Faculties Council approved a proposal to change the nine-point grading scale to a four-point scale similar to that used by other North American institutions. Currently the school uses a nine-point system, with nine as the maximum, four as the lowest possible passing mark and one as lowest mark.

The new scale will be introduced in Sept. 2003, but since grades from the nine-point system won’t be converted to the new scale, many students will receive transcripts with mixed grades.

U of A registrar Brian Silzer said the current grading system causes confusion among admission and scholarship committees at other schools. The uniqueness of the U of A’s nine-point grading scale could present a disadvantage if other schools misunderstand the system.

In January 1999, GFC decided to discard the current grading system when a majority of members voted to reject a report that suggested the grading system was adequate.

The adoption of the new system is the first step in a larger plan to establish a common grading scale for all Alberta universities. The idea of a single Alberta post-secondary grading system was conceived in January 2000 and was met with approval by the province-wide Universities Coordinating Council.

The proposal will now see similar consideration at the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, Canadian University College and Nazarene University College. Those schools all use slightly different four-point systems that will only require minor modification to match the U of A’s new scale.

Schools with entirely different scales, like Augustana University College, Concordia University College, King’s University College and Athabasca University are expected to follow suit later on. The U of A opted for a 4.0-point scale over a 4.3-point system that would have given .3 points more for work assessed as A+. The approved 4.0-point system will permit grades of 0.0(F/FS), 1.0(D), 1.3(D+), 1.7(C-), 2.0(C), 2.3(C+), 2.7(B-), 3.0(B), 3.3(B+), 3.7(A-), and 4.0(A/A+).

Chris Samuel, U of A Students’ Union VP-Academic and President-elect, expressed concerns with hybrid transcripts for students with grades in both the nine-point and four-point scales.

"Employers might see a student getting all nines in the first few years, then all fours in later years, and think, ‘What happened?’ They might not realize that there were changes to the system."

Although there are concerns about the minor financial cost of changing grading systems, students appear interested in the change. According to Silzer, the student representatives of the GFC were actually some of the strongest advocates of the new system.

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