'Cheapens the grade': Mixed reaction from students after University of Auckland rules out 'grade bump' for 2021

University of Auckland.
University of Auckland. Photo credit: Getty Images

The University of Auckland won't be bumping students' results up a grade like it did last year, despite the difficulties posed by the latest COVID-19 lockdown.

The university has already cancelled all in-person classes for the rest of the semester, regardless of the alert level, to give students some certainty. 

The Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA) had been pushing for a repeat of last year's grade bump, which saw students' results boosted - an acknowledgement their marks might not have been as strong had the pandemic not happened. Grades were scaled up one step - an A- became and A, a B a B+, and so on. 

On Monday, the university said it wouldn't be so kind this year, saying last year's bump "created a number of unintended consequences which we do not wish to repeat this year".

"Perhaps the most significant of these was that it resulted in some students progressing into their next level of study without having gained sufficient knowledge and skills," a statement from vice-chancellor Dawn Freshwater, pro vice-chancellor of education Bridget Kool and provost Valerie Linton.

"It is important that students can demonstrate they have gained the knowledge and skills from a course in order that they are sufficiently prepared to progress into their next level of study. Therefore this will not be offered in 2021."

Also being pulled is the university's offer of a fees-free retake of any failed courses, and free applications for aegrotat scores or other compassionate consideration. 

"Obviously we’re very disappointed with the decision, especially around the grade bump," AUSA president Anamika Harirajh told university student newspaper Craccum.

"I do appreciate that the university has been working hard on addressing our concerns over the last week but we do not think that their decisions take into consideration the severe disruptions students across the university are facing."

While the rest of the country was quickly moved to alert level 2 after it became clear the Delta variant's spread was almost entirely within Auckland, the super city is still at level 4. Level 3 kicks in on Wednesday, but little will change for students, who'll still be learning remotely regardless of alert level. 

As of Tuesday, nearly 5000 students had signed a petition calling for a repeat of the grade bump. 

The reaction online was mixed, with some criticising the university's decision, and others saying it was the right call. 

Some were annoyed by what they saw as the impersonal tone of an email sent out to students informing them of the decision.

"We care about you, firstname_blank! So in acknowledgement of this, we will be doing  absolutely nothing ," one person wrote on the university's Facebook page. "How is that providing academic support exactly? It's a complete absence of support, coupled with a complete lack of compassion," wrote another. 

Students were just as angry on AUSA's Facebook page, one simply calling it "crap".

Over on Reddit, on a page dedicated to goings-on at the university, there was more sympathy for the university's view. 

"In Sem 1 of 2020 after the grade bump… my entire class averaged an A," one person wrote, saying it "kind of cheapens the grade if everyone can get it". 

"I agree with their decision. A full grade bump is too much," said another, while a third thought perhaps the university "realised there's too much cheating going on". 

Newshub reported in July cheating was rife in online exams, with students allowed to take them unsupervised and sharing answers in chatrooms.