Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Reports 'may replace degree awards'

Students are to be given a detailed record of their university achievements alongside their final degree award, it has been announced

School-style reports could replace traditional degrees in future under a shake-up of the awarding system, it has been suggested.

From this September, students will be given a detailed record of their university achievements, alongside their final degree award.

It is set to include more information on academic courses, such as module marks, as well as details of volunteering work, any prizes a student has won, additional qualifications that can be verified by the university and any other positions held, such as the captaincy of the hockey team.

More than half of UK universities have already confirmed they are to bring in the record, known as a Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR). The introduction of the electronic record, similar to the reports children are given at the end of the school year, was recommended in the final report of a working group on the issue.

The move paves the way for the HEAR to take over from the 200-year-old honours classification system, which sees graduates awarded a first, upper or lower second or third, at some point in the future.

Professor Sir Robert Burgess, chair of the working group and vice-chancellor of Leicester University, said it is important that students have a comprehensive record of all their achievements at the end of the degree course.

"The UK honours degree is a robust and highly-valued qualification. But universities have recognised for some time that a single degree classification cannot do justice to the range of skills, knowledge and experience students gain during their time in higher education," he said.

"The HEAR is designed to encourage a more sophisticated approach to recording students' achievements in the 21st century. It will benefit students, employers and higher education institutions themselves. Our previous report identified the damaging obsession with 'first' and 'upper second' degree classifications, and it is now clear that this is not enough detail for students and employers. The aim of the HEAR is to provide the wider picture of a student's achievements.

"Following the successful trials, we have seen many other institutions beginning to develop their own HEARs, with over half the sector now in line to introduce the document. In time, the steering group hopes that the wider information contained in the HEAR will eclipse the single degree classification and, where appropriate, serve as a replacement for it."

The HEAR has been piloted at a number of universities since 2008 and it will now be up to individual universities to decide whether to introduce it. The document will be online, meaning final-year students applying for jobs will be able to give potential employers access to it.