On Tuesday 21st July Student Administration at the ANU announced grade point averages (GPAs) will now be published on undergraduate and postgraduate academic transcripts. A GPA is an internationally recognised grading method that provides a numerical summary of a student’s academic career.
In being a simple numerical figure, GPAs are often used by employers and other tertiary
institutions to assess and compare the academic records of applicants. Also, the GPA allows a more complicated academic record along the lines of the ANU’s traditional grading scale to be compressed into a single number.
However, ANU’s adoption of the GPA does not make it uniform with other institutions across
Australia. The universities that use the GPA are split between those using a 4.0 GPA scale (with 4 being the highest attainable grade) and those using a 7.0 scale. Furthermore other universities, particularly the Universities of Sydney, NSW, and Melbourne among others, use a weighted average mark (WAM) instead of the GPA.
The WAM also gives a summary of a student’s entire academic career, but does not commute a student’s exact mark to a rounded point value, as the GPA does. For example, the WAM will
take a mark of 72 into consideration, whereas a GPA will average any mark between 70 and 79 to a GP value of 6.
Staff at the Kuwaiti Cultural Office in Canberra complained that such diversity was deterring
Kuwaiti and other international students from enrolling in ANU programs. Allegedly, the usage
of the GPA not only obscures their students’ actual marks, but does not illustrate the
particularities of ANU’s grading bands. For instance, some courses may award HDs more
frequently than others, and this complexity would ultimately be hidden from potential
employers. According to their staff, this then makes employment outside Australia difficult for
ANUSA “[felt] generally positive” about the addition of GPAs and that “providing more
information about academic performance in a different way is positive.” They also noted that the
details of the transcript has not been completely replaced by the GPA, and will be “as equally
accessible as the GPA.”
In regards to concerns about GPA scaling methods, ANUSA recognised the criticism as “just”, but that ultimately the GPA only tells a part of the student’s story.
“ANUSA sees students as possessing a range of abilities flowing from a range of experiences, be they in work experience, internships, or extra-curricular activities. A student’s GPA only reflects their marks, not the other achievements and challenges that they might have overcome,” they said.
When asked if students had been consulted about the change, ANUSA said that “to [their]
knowledge, there was no specific consultation process held outside of the University committees on which ANUSA executives sit.”
PARSA, the ANU Postgraduate and Research Student Association, could not be reached for comment regarding this change.