TU Delft graduates should regard interpretations of Dutch grades abroad, especially in the UK, with great skepticism as they are systematically undervalued. Grade comparison by statistics has to stop, says Sas Harrison.
I studied in Delft, but I come from the UK. I know the British. That is part of why I studied in Delft. I am shocked, however, about the willingness of the Dutch to accept UK higher education claims without defending their own status, interests, and us, their graduates. I'm shocked and angered by the way in which Dutch degrees, and academic results, are badly undervalued in my country.
NUFFIC (and often others) compare Dutch and UK Grades by statistics. This assumes that the passing grades are equivalent. I have to tell you that this isn't true at all. The British grade "pass" effectively means "fail",and while "third class honours" sounds good, it's actually a very poor result. It actually means your degree isn't worth the paper it is written on.
In the Netherlands, if you do "very badly" then you won't pass. The only study like that in England is medicine. Unfortunately NUFFIC & co haven't realised this, and so they simply award the bottom half of every Dutch university a UK grade that effectively condemns them as a failure, worldwide.
But just because half of British graduates have done badly, that doesn't mean the same is true of Delft graduates. If statistics must be used, then at least let it be the statistics on what a degree is actually worth on the street in its “home country”.
What would happen if students that failed everything in their first year, and left, had been given a "passing 4" or a "passing 5". Would that make your 6, or 7 worth more? Of course not.
In the UK, passing means "achieving anything at all" while the "effective" passing grade is much higher. This is not a sign of high standards, it is just a cultural, and linguistic difference. What's the difference between a "worthless pass" and a "fail" except words?
That is the point. In the Netherlands, you don't pass unless you achieve competence and success. It might leave plenty of room for improvement, but so do the “good” UK grades.
In Delft we have a similar "tough marking" culture to the UK. Our 60% is the same as theirs, so why artificially devalue us? Are we afraid of labeling lower UK "passes" like 2.2hons and 3hons as what they are in practice? Failing grades?
I know how Dutch exams are graded, and I've graded a lot of work myself. Every Delft student has to get the equivalent of a "good" UK grade. Our tests are tough. Yes, we're allowed to fail, but that just means people aren't afraid to fail us.
Meanwhile "flunking" anyone in England gets political criticism, so they just don't. We still have to get a 6 in all tests too. Not a 4 in hard courses and an 8 in easy ones.
I would like to debunk the whole UK Higher-Ed Delusion, but that's a book, not an article. Just remember, there is no British equivalent to Delft. Many Brits think "engineer" means you fix cars. They don't even have a "Technische Universiteit". And where did the word ‘school’ come from anyway?
Upper-Second-Class-Honours sounds fancy, but it's the single, standard grade for a successful student. Behaald, maar geen cum-laude.
Every TU graduate is that good. The lower grades are for those guys you haven't seen since Freshman February. You shouldn’t need to keep them around just to be ranked higher.
Grade comparison by statistics? NUFFIC comparisons or ECTS Grading Scale? It's wrong, and it has to go.
Ir. Sas Harrison is a TU Delft Aerospace Engineering graduate and works for Validus Engineering AS in Norway.