"A" Grade to be Changed to 85% and Higher in New Academic Regulations

The University Observer has seen a draft version of the taught Academic Regulations that have been composed by the Academic Council Executive Committee Regulations Review Working Group.In the regulations, which were given to the University Observer by a member of UCD staff, a number of changes to the current regulations are outlined including dividing the academic year into trimesters, making it mandatory to provide feedback to students on assessments within twenty days, and altering grade calculations so that 85% and upwards will class as an A grade.A working group was set up to review the current UCD Academic Regulations which have been in place since 2006 in order to bring the regulations in line with the UCD Strategy 2015-2020 as part of the ‘Strategic Initiative 2: defining educational excellence.’ The draft regulations were released for consultation in February of this year.Trimesters: The regulations state that, “The university’s academic session [will be] structured into trimesters (Autumn, Spring, Summer),” instead of the current two semester system. This change aims to “reflect current practice” where “graduate studies and certain undergraduate activity continues across three terms” rather than the two semesters.Electives: Currently, undergraduate students can take up to six elective modules each worth five credits; the new regulations however, would limit this to five elective modules available to students. The regulations entitle students to take a “number of elective modules, equating up to 25 credits,” with the condition that, “Undergraduate degree students shall not take elective modules in trimester 1 of stage 1.”This decision was based on a recommendation from the Enhancement of Electives Advisory Group with the reasoning that “it provides time for students to familiarise themselves with the university environment and their preferences.”Assessment:The regulations outline that the ideal strategy of module assessment “should make use of an appropriate range of methods of assessment.” On this matter, it is stated: “Where end-of-trimester examination is used as a means of assessment, an appropriate balance between formal end-of-trimester examinations and in-trimester assessment should be achieved.”Regarding final examinations, the regulations say the exams are to be “restricted to two hours without derogation [exception].”The regulations also advise for “the use of notes in the form of a single A4 page prepared by the student… where examinations is used as a means of assessment.” The usage of notes may be restricted by the module coordinator “where it is clearly specified in the module descriptor.” The reasoning for making this provision “is to establish a norm whereby students would be permitted to bring a single A4 page with notes into the examination.”Feedback: The new regulations lay out that “Students shall receive feedback on both formative and summative assessments.” This makes the provision of feedback a requirement for all assessments completed during a module.According to the draft: “Feedback should be clear and understandable, focused on the promotion of learning, and be structured around goals, criteria and standards. Feedback… may be given in written or oral form, whether formally in a one-to-one meeting or informally in a lecture/tutorial/practical setting.”Clearly stated within the new regulations is the provision that feedback must be provided within a certain period of time. “Feedback on assessment must be provided according to the specification in the module descriptor and no later than twenty working days after the deadline for submission of each piece of assessed work.”Grading:Within the new regulations, changes have been made to the grading scale. The grade scale shall include an ABS grade, with a neutral grade point, for ‘Absent’ to denote where no marks are awarded because “no work was submitted by the student or the student was absent from the assessment component.”The grades WL and WX will no longer be awarded. Currently WL grades mean ‘Withdrawn Late’ and are given to students who withdraw from a module after the first six weeks with a grade point of zero awarded. WX grades are for students who withdraw from a module after week 6 due to extenuating circumstances.Under the new regulations, there will no longer be separate grades for late withdrawal or withdrawal due to extenuating circumstances, instead, W grades will be awarded. W grades will have a neutral grade point and be given to “a student who withdraws before attempting assessment components amounting to 80% of the weight of the module’s assessment components. No credit is awarded and a subsequent attempt at that module is treated as a first attempt. Attendance at an examination shall be considered as an attempt at an assessment component.”The regulations specify the changes in grade scales awarded by the percentage received in a module. The following table shows how grades were previously set and the new grade changes proposed in the Academic Regulations.New Grading System: 
GradeGrade PointCurrent Lower Limit (%)Proposed Lower Limit (%)
In a statement to the University Observer, UCDSU Education Officer Robert Sweeney said: “Feedback with 20 working days is something the SU has advocated strongly to be kept in the regulations. While it does not specify what type of feedback it is very welcome. We are also pleased to see the ability to withdraw from a module at a late stage to be beneficial. It formalises what is essentially current practice within programme boards.”Regarding the changes to the grading scale, he says, “We have raised our strong concerns on the changing of the grading system… Through this concern we have been guaranteed that we will have a seat at the table in the discussion on University grading through the a sub committee of University Programme Board. While it is hard to say currently what the grading system change will result in, we would expect if the current scale becomes the sole scale for MCQs it will reduce the number of students receiving an A. The current regulations are in draft stage, so we will continue to raise our concerns.”The new regulations are expected to come into effect next year, although it is likely that some aspects will need to be phased in.