By Levin Stamm
With the last days of summer drawing to a close, workload is still manageable in the classrooms of the academic building. For most students, the usual avalanche of assignments and exams is only an unwholesome providence for now. Unusual, in contrast, will be the grades adorning their Canvas pages, course planners and transcripts.
On 1 September, AUC officially implemented the switch from the letter grade system, common in the US and UK and ranging from F to A+, to the Dutch grading system (1 to 10). What appears to be a rather straightforward change at first sight, is actually more nuanced. The Herring answers the most urgent questions.
What grades will I receive from now on?
As common in the Dutch school system, the highest achievable grade is a 10, while the lowest grade a 1. Singular grades that are given for exams and assignments will be rounded to two decimal places. For the final course grade that will appear on the transcript, the weighted average of all intermediate grades will be rounded to one decimal place. Grades from off-campus courses and semesters abroad will not be converted anymore.
The new grading system is immediately taking effect for all students who still study at AUC. There will be a transition phase for students who started their studies at AUC during the academic year 2021-2022 or earlier.
I am a second- or third-year student. How will I be impacted by the change in grading?
Grades of second- and third-year students will continue to be converted into a GPA ranging from 0 to 4. Their grade list and diploma supplement will show the previously obtained letter that were obtained until the end of the academic year 2021-2022 and the new numerical grades starting from this academic year.
The criteria to receive a distinction and to pass a course a remain unchanged for current second- and third-year students.
I am a first-year student. What changes for me compared to the previous grading system?
The most noticeable change: Grades are not converted anymore with the new grading system. The final GPA will simply be the weighted average of all passing grades that a student receives during their time at AUC and will thus range from 6 to 10.
Compared to peers from the previous years, students who start during the academic year 2022-2023 or later will face stricter requirements to graduate with distinction. While AUC students would previously graduate cum laude if they had a GPA of at least 3.5 (approximately corresponding to somewhere between a 7.7 and a 7.8 in the new grading system), students now need to graduate with a GPA of 8.0 for a cum laude distinction.
The same applies for summa cum laude distinctions: Previously, a GPA of 3.9 (which could be achieved by scoring as low as 82.5 percent on average) sufficed for the highest of all distinctions. Now, a weighted grade point average of 8.75 is necessary to graduate summa cum laude.
The criterium to pass a course remains unchanged. New students still need a final grade of at least 5.50 – which will be rounded to a 6 – to receive the credits for their course.
Is there even a need to adjust the distinction criteria?
According to the extended management team (EMT) there is. Michiel van Drunen, Director of Education at AUC, explained during a meeting in mid-June with interested students that the previous cum laude range was rather low compared to similar study programmes in the Netherlands.
This is only partially true. Most study programmes at the Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA) and the Vrije Universiteit (VU) indeed require a grade average of 8.0 for a cum laude distinction.
Other university colleges, such as Utrecht University College (UCU) or Leiden University College (LUC), however, still use the letter grade system and continue to apply distinction criteria that were comparable to AUC’s previous one.
Why did AUC decide to change the grading system?
The “lenient” honours criteria were not the only reason for the change. During the same meeting, van Drunen mentioned that the letter grade system disadvantaged students that had received a percentage grade on the upper side of the grade boundaries. Their GPA was disproportionately affected.
For instance, a student with a weighted average score of 77 percent received a B+ which translated into a 3.3 grade point. In contrast, an average score of 78 percent resulted in a 3.7, corresponding to an increase in GPA of 12 percent – an exasperating matter for both students and lecturers: “Students who had just missed the next higher grade boundary would ask me to round up. Of course I denied their request, but I did so with a heavy heart,” van Drunen said during the meeting in June.
Another issue mentioned by van Drunen: Until today, there is no generally accepted conversion table between letter grades and the Dutch point system. Inconsistencies in converting grades from universities abroad and off-campus courses were the consequence, sometimes leading to appeals by students to the Examination Appeals Board of the VU. “In some cases, those appeals were approved,” van Drunen said.
What was the reason for AUC having the letter grade system in the first place?
AUC used the letter grade system since it took up operation in 2009 and did so until the end of the academic year 2021-2022. Director of Education van Drunen said that AUC needed to distinguish itself from other university colleges and universities at the time: “The letter grades also helped to underline AUC’s international outlook.”
Now, 13 years later, this is not a priority anymore. AUC sees itself confronted with a steady decrease in Dutch students, while maintaining its popularity among international students. The move to the Dutch grading system may also make AUC more appealing to domestic students. However, van Drunen denied this to be one of the reasons for the change in grading system.