A degree is like an Olympic medal - you want a gold not a report card

Do students really need a full-length, in-depth report detailing how they performed at university?

Share
Related Topics

A“working group” has been set up under the vice-chancellor of Leicester University, Professor Sir Robert Burgess, to investigate the abolition of the old degree classifications system.

No longer will students emerge from their three years of hoggish indolence, erotic experiment and cyberspatial plagiarism with a First, a Second or a Third. They’ll now be given a Higher Education Achievement Report, which is like a school report, only longer and far more boring.

It’ll rant on about the courses and “modules” taken by students, the “skills” they’ve mastered, plus random details about whether they did volunteer work or played in the lacrosse team. All this, says Prof Sir Robert, is “designed to encourage a more sophisticated approach to recording students’ achievements in the 21st century” than single-degree classifications, which, he continued, give “not enough detail for students and employers”.

Oh, please. Sir Robert and his working group fail to understand the power that’s packed in those three levels of degree. Who would really prefer to have the most glowing Higher Education Achievement Report (“Derek possesses a fine grasp of the symbolism of teapots in late-Victorian nonsense verse, and expresses himself with verve and elegance…”) than the glory, the ecstasy, the quiet internal bliss of getting a First? 

It’s like the Olympics. We saw the striving, the bulging sinews and bursting lungs et cetera of the athletes – but the point was to get the gold, not to look forward to six pages of explanatory prosifying (“Mr Farah’s legs ran alternately forward with considerable velocity, while the rest of his body accompanied them with admirable skill…”).

I never got a First. Like most people, I got a Second. At Oxford, though, they don’t believe in “2:1” and “2:2” classifications, just the naked word. So we students had to find out how we were marked in individual papers – and what a joy it was to discover the examining tutors’ inky inscription of an exquisitely nuanced “B++(?)+” or “A-/A- -”. We never understood the subtle critical workings of their adjudicating minds – but it would have ruined the magic to have their classification reduced to a page of schoolmaster-speak. Why would a potential employer care tuppence?

Back in the 1970s everybody who’d been awarded a Second called it an “Upper Second” (though my friend Glyn modestly admitted his was a “Lower Upper Second”). If you got a Third, you flaunted it as the mark of a louche and insouciant playboy. But – a super-brainy pal told me – a First was like acquiring a knighthood, a halo, and an odour of intellectual sainthood.  Can they replace that with the equivalent of a gold star? As ideas go, it’s a C-minus.

Queue the costumes

Hallowe’en is coming our way like a speeding bullet and the shops are filling up with scary masks and costumes. Among the more bad-taste ones are Jesus Christ costumes (complete with fake beard and “thorny twine headpiece”) distributed by the Spirit corporation. And, no, they don’t offer Mohammed costumes, for some reason.

But effortlessly eclipsing the Jesus costume is an inspired creation. Remember “Ecce Homo,” the fresco of Christ in a Spanish church, which was “restored,” or rather turned into a fuzzy portrait of a hairy simian, by an octogenarian art re-toucher called Cecilia Giminez? It’s now available as a mask, accessorised with bushy hair and lovely orange robes. Ms Giminez must be so proud. Will she demand intellectual property rights?

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker