Change in AUC’s Grading System: Second- and Third-Year Students Fear for Their Master’s Applications

By Pola Folwarczny

Collage by Sara Serrano

In May 2022, the current second- and third-year students received an email informing them of a major change in the grading system. As of 1 September 2022, the letter grades would be replaced with a numerical system, in accordance with the Dutch grading system. Some students noticed immediately that – as a result of the transition – their final diplomas will contain both the letter and number grades. The question instantly arose: How would it affect their chances of applying to Master’s programmes?

One of the students actively trying to find a solution to the problem is Hattie Krämer, a third-year Social Science major. She explains that the main reasons for her discontent are the inconveniences the mixed diploma might cause in the future, both in her studies and in her career. “Especially because we’re studying Liberal Arts and Sciences, they [Admissions Officers] are going to look at every course that you took,” she says. “If they have a hundred applications in front of them and thirty seconds to look at one and decide whether it’s worth looking into deeper, then it [the mixed diploma] could be decisive.”

Krämer is particularly concerned because many students are not aware of the way their diplomas will look and how that might affect their futures. “I mentioned it to my friends and a lot of them didn’t know that,” she says, explaining that once she describes the situation to her peers, they usually agree with her discontent. She expresses her disappointment over the fact that the grades cannot be converted to one system in order to make the diplomas look more coherent, and explains the response she received from the Administration Team regarding her inquiry: “It’s a technological problem, the reason they can’t go back to the letters for us.”

Lola Collingbourne, a third-year Social Science major and the External Affairs Officer of the AUC Student Council (AUCSC), explains: “The system, the UvA SIS [Student Information System], can’t have both of the [grading] systems input into it at the same time,” continuing, “They had to do a total switch to this new system.”

AUCSC has reached out to AUC’s Management Team (MT) after noticing the rising levels of concern among students. Collingbourne outlines that the MT’s motivation for the big transition was to become more consistent with the Dutch grading system as many AUC students wish to stay in the Netherlands after obtaining their Bachelor’s degree. “It’s a way of increasing legitimacy, to be in the same system as the bigger universities here,” Collingbourne says.

AUCSC proposed a number of solutions to the Administration Team and the Registrar’s Office. The one that was agreed upon, taking into account the capabilities of the SIS, is the attachment of a supporting statement along with the official diploma. According to Collingbourne, the statement will most probably offer conversion from the letter grades to the number grades in order to avoid any confusion regarding the abrupt change.

The effectiveness of this idea has been confirmed by Admission Officers from universities that AUC students regularly pursue further education at, and whom the Student Council consulted to gain their insight into the matter and find the solution most favourable to AUC students. Most of the universities AUC students will apply to attract many international candidates and thus usually have their own standards in a range of different grading systems. Yet, Collingbourne recalls that some of the Admission Officers did express that having two different figures on the diploma might pose a problem in the beginning.

It is of utmost importance to provide the universities with an explanation of the situation: “Even an asterisk on the bottom, or a supporting letter that states that there are two different grading systems and explains how they intertwine and when the decision was made, provides a lot more context,” Collingbourne says. 

Collingbourne assures that AUCSC is in constant communication with the Administration Team and the Registrar’s Office, who promptly worked together on a solution to the students’ concerns. As Collingbourne highlights AUCSC’s positive idea of where the process is heading, she affirms that “as we get closer to graduation, we [AUCSC] will make sure things are finalised and we will let everyone know as soon as possible.”

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