Oxford rejects proposal for university report cards

Oxford University has restated its stance against adopting new graduate ‘report cards’ that are being rolled out for students across the country.

Incoming undergraduates at 104 higher education institutions – over half the UK total – will receive the new ‘Higher Education Achievement Report’ (HEAR) upon completing their degrees. More universities are expected to follow.
But a spokesperson for Oxford University commented, “Based on evidence from the HEAR pilot and feedback showing a lack of interest from employers, Oxford has no plans to implement the HEAR, unless evidence of demand for it from our students or employers emerges.”
Trialled by 18 universities since 2008, the HEAR consists of a six-page report, giving a detailed breakdown of a graduate’s module marks, skills gained from their course, as well as academic prizes and extra-curricular activities.It is hoped the HEAR will help employers seek out the best candidates, instead of having to rely solely on traditional degree classifications.
Following the Wilson Review of business-university collaboration, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) signalled their support for the HEAR in a formal response to the review in June.
In response to Oxford’s statement, a spokesperson for BIS stressed that the HEAR was developed “in partnership with employers” and informed Cherwell, “it is for each institution to decide whether or not it will implement it.”
OUSU Vice-President for Academic Affairs, David Messling, believed that the HEAR would lead to a “sticky situation” where the University “decides which teams, societies, and activities do or don’t get its seal of approval”.
He added, “with the benefit of an individual tutorial relationship and advice from the Oxford Careers Service, Oxford students don’t really need HEAR.”
Jonathan Black, Careers Service director, echoed this scepticism. “Our discussions with employers suggest they have no plans to use the HEAR for selection. Most select based on university ranking and students’ degrees.
“The HEAR is a standard checklist that may not be applicable to each Oxford student. A CV’s language and presentation communicates a great deal more about a candidate in a way a standardised form cannot.
“University must help students prepare for the adjustment to an unstructured, post-education environment – a checklist unnecessarily continues the highly structured approach of school.”
Oxford students had mixed and cautious thoughts. Second year St Anne’s mathematician Connie Triggs expressed a favourable opinion, “as long as they don’t get rid of the old classification system altogether.”
“It would give employers a better idea of your expertise, especially you’re going for a job directly related to your degree.”
Meanwhile second year Keble historian Emma Harper said it could, “potentially distinguish me from the mass of historians who will probably get 2:1s.”
However she also asked, “How do you compare modules between universities? Who decides what skills you have achieved from each module? Are employers going to care about your individual marks? Will they even read all that information?”
Good degree classifications have been steadily increasing, inspiring reports this summer that leading companies were screening out those without top marks. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in 2010-11, firsts and 2:1s were awarded to 64 per cent of graduates.
The HEAR has been endorsed by Universities UK and GuildHE, two major higher education representative bodies. BIS claims it will give employers “richer information” about students, who in turn get “a much fuller record of their achievements.”
Editor of The Times Good University Guide, John O’Leary, warned that the HEAR could be “a costly waste of time”. Speaking to Cherwell, he commented, “employers tend to prefer sticking with what they know.”
“They might like something simple like a grade point average, but I doubt many will wade through the detail in the new reports.” He added that it was “too early” to say whether achievement reports would replace degree classifications.”
However, he did not see the changes as “anti-academic”, despite concerns that they represented further ‘marketising’ in higher education, “I would have thought most academics would like to see their courses recognised, rather than simply contributing to a classification.”

Oxford University has restated its stance against adopting new graduate ‘report cards’ that are being rolled out for students across the country.

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Incoming undergraduates at 104 higher education institutions – over half the UK total – will receive the new ‘Higher Education Achievement Report’ (HEAR) upon completing their degrees. More universities are expected to follow.

But a spokesperson for Oxford University commented, “Based on evidence from the HEAR pilot and feedback showing a lack of interest from employers, Oxford has no plans to implement the HEAR, unless evidence of demand for it from our students or employers emerges.”

Trialled by 18 universities since 2008, the HEAR consists of a six-page report, giving a detailed breakdown of a graduate’s module marks, skills gained from their course, as well as academic prizes and extra-curricular activities. It is hoped the HEAR will help employers seek out the best candidates, instead of having to rely solely on traditional degree classifications.

Following the Wilson Review of business-university collaboration, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) signalled their support for the HEAR in a formal response to the review in June.

In response to Oxford’s statement, a spokesperson for BIS stressed that the HEAR was developed “in partnership with employers” and informed Cherwell, “it is for each institution to decide whether or not it will implement it.”

OUSU Vice-President for Academic Affairs, David Messling, believed that the HEAR would lead to a “sticky situation” where the University “decides which teams, societies, and activities do or don’t get its seal of approval”.

He added, “with the benefit of an individual tutorial relationship and advice from the Oxford Careers Service, Oxford students don’t really need HEAR.”

Jonathan Black, Careers Service director, echoed this scepticism. “Our discussions with employers suggest they have no plans to use the HEAR for selection. Most select based on university ranking and students’ degrees.“

‘The HEAR is a standard checklist that may not be applicable to each Oxford student. A CV’s language and presentation communicates a great deal more about a candidate in a way a standardised form cannot. University must help students prepare for the adjustment to an unstructured, post-education environment – a checklist unnecessarily continues the highly structured approach of school.”

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Oxford students had mixed and cautious thoughts. Second year St Anne’s mathematician Connie Triggs expressed a favourable opinion, “as long as they don’t get rid of the old classification system altogether.”

She continued, “It would give employers a better idea of your expertise, especially you’re going for a job directly related to your degree.”

Meanwhile second year Keble historian Emma Harper said it could, “potentially distinguish me from the mass of historians who will probably get 2:1s.”

However, she also asked, “How do you compare modules between universities? Who decides what skills you have achieved from each module? Are employers going to care about your individual marks? Will they even read all that information?”

Good degree classifications have been steadily increasing, inspiring reports this summer that leading companies were screening out those without top marks. Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that in 2010-11, firsts and 2:1s were awarded to 64 per cent of graduates.

The HEAR has been endorsed by Universities UK and GuildHE, two major higher education representative bodies. BIS claims it will give employers “richer information” about students, who in turn get “a much fuller record of their achievements.”

Editor of The Times Good University Guide, John O’Leary, warned that the HEAR could be “a costly waste of time”. Speaking to Cherwell, he commented, “employers tend to prefer sticking with what they know.”

‘They might like something simple like a grade point average, but I doubt many will wade through the detail in the new reports.” He added that it was “too early” to say whether achievement reports would replace degree classifications.”

However, he did not see the changes as “anti-academic”, despite concerns that they represented further ‘marketising’ in higher education, “I would have thought most academics would like to see their courses recognised, rather than simply contributing to a classification.”