Why the University Grading System Doesn’t Work

I won’t lie – it’s great to be back at uni. The team at Innovate CV, led by Lord Jim Knight, have spent the past two months hosting university-based workshops on graduate employment issues with student leaders.

One dialogue proved particularly fascinating. A computer science student raised her hand: “Honestly, how important are good grades when applying for graduate jobs?”

“Good grades will never hurt,” I replied after a moment’s thought. “But a lack of professionally relevant experiences always will.”

Photo credit: David Silverline

The student was visibly surprised by my answer. She later confided that she had always assumed that extracurricular activities were some sort of cherry on top of an academic pie. As a result, here’s a candidate who is textbook rich – but experience poor. A risky investment, you’d agree.

Related article: Recruiters, what do you look for in a Grad?

Now, no one would deny that academic achievement should count for something. But gauging that measurement is a complex task. Is a 2:1 degree necessary for all fields? Besides, how does one accurately compare universities’ evaluation policies? Furthermore, how can courses be fairly assessed against one another?

Recruiters are increasingly being forced to initiate creative means of levelling the playing field, whereby quality candidates are primarily identified by their skills and creativity; where proven experience is emphasised, yet relevant grades are not discounted. Our transcript-toting grads are left frustrated, wondering what they’ve gained from their university experience.

Related article: Are Britain’s School and Universities Preparing Young People Well Enough for Work?

Lord Knight, our nation’s former employment and education minister, has long maintained that the education system needs to be more far more relevant. Indeed there’s no better place to start than by addressing this disconnect between the academic and professional worlds.

Are Britain’s Schools and Universities Preparing Young People Well Enough for Work?

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5 Comments on “Why the University Grading System Doesn’t Work”

  1. Roving Rex 12
    July 1, 2011 at 9:38 am #

    As a 2009 grad, let be the first to comment – WELL SAID!!

  2. Radical Andy
    July 3, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    I worked my ‘s off at uni, and I earned a top notch score. What’s that show? It shows I’d work hard for my employer too. Anyone who wants to do away with exams is because they’d rather hang out at the SU pub.

  3. July 4, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I think you’re missing the point of this discussion, Andy.

    Of course employers should take into account one’s academic results. But is that the be all and end all? What if someone spent three hours a week LESS studying, so he could chair a society? Or market an event? Or work part time etc?

    So we have a case of someone who worked hard in their extracorricular activities…but achieved average grades (or even less than 2:1) … now ask yourself: who is more likely to work harder for their employer? someone who worked hard studying textbooks, or someone who worked hard DOING?

  4. July 7, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I graduated in 2010 as soon as i left uni i knew i wasn’t going to get a job with my grade so i carried on working at home. I worked really hard and i ended up employed earlier than those who achieved a 2:1 or a 1st.

    This is a common sense post a real eye opener

    • Essex
      July 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm #

      I hate to ask, but do you think uni was even worth it? Would you do it again, or start working from after school?

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