On the 8th of May, Craccum broke the news that UOA had decided to scale up the overall final grades for all taught undergraduate and postgraduate classes. This decision came in direct response to actions from the Auckland University Students’ Association, who wrote an Open Letter to the university, outlining concerns over the negative impacts of COVID-19 on student’s education ability and the disruption that had resulted from the closure of campus.
Thanks to their efforts, the final grades for individual taught papers will be scaled up a full grade mark. For example, a C+ will be scaled to a B-.
I know the stress of being an undergraduate. During my first three years of university, I was hyper-focused on my GPA and utterly clueless in my navigation between assignment deadlines. I didn’t really understand how to transition from my high school ramblings to appropriately formatted, correctly referenced, ‘top-quality’ university essays. Even with a largely encouraging environment, the first year of uni was enough pressure to cause more than a few I’m-way-too-dumb-for-university-it’s-time-to-drop-out freakouts. I relied heavily on office hours with my first semester tutors and advice from older students to teach me the ropes. I improved very slowly because of their help, and would still be lost without it. At that point, I thought the world was falling apart, but I can’t even begin to imagine what first-year freakouts might look like at the moment. Hopefully the GPA boost has brought you all some comfort. My apologies to the young ‘uns. Please reach out to your lecturers and tutors for help and extensions, there’s no better time to do so.
As someone who did pretty well in high school, and was set on continuing onto postgrad (you did it lil’ Mads!), my GPA was one of my primary concerns. University is a significant hit to the wallet, and I wanted to increase every chance of cruising through on a scholarship for my later years. For those who might not know, if you finish off your degree with an 8.0 GPA (equivalent to an A average), you can continue onto the next stage with a guaranteed scholarship. A high GPA can also assist in your application for other scholarships. Basically, for students interested in postgraduate degrees, a high GPA can translate to real economic value. With COVID impacting student working conditions so drastically, and industries filled with student jobs struggling (specifically hospitality and retail), maintaining a high enough GPA may be a last option for undergraduate students to be able to afford to study beyond a Bachelors.. For first years, it will also help to salvage those initial grades that are less than amazing even in the best of times. Similarly, for those in postgraduate study, maintaining a high GPA may enable students to continue on into higher education not possible without scholarship funding.
Obviously, this grade boost is also helpful for students worried about passing classes. Some do not have access to the technology and resources required to stay up to date online and will be eagerly waiting for study spaces and University computers to become available for use. This grade boost, as well as with the ability to omit C range grades from your transcript, will help to quell issues of access. However, the boost is not a complete solution to student hardships. The government’s support package falls so short for students, real financial support is needed, especially for those with serious access issues. The suggestion that students should take out more Studylink cash to support their studies is pretty ridiculous and puts us in a more financially vulnerable situation in the future.
Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by the university’s actions. Through the grade boost, they’ve expressed a bit of empathy and understanding for all students during a really tough time. AUSA were grinding hard for all of us and their work has paid off (cheers guys!). For those who might be reading from other universities, get behind your student association and help them to make some change. Otago University Student Association have already lobbied successfully for the University of Otago to do the same. Stay engaged with student action on your campus and push your university to make decisions that are in your best interests. If they don’t do that, hold them to account.
Hopefully we can see a bit more empathy and understanding in future decisions from both the UOA and the government. COVID has exposed some serious inequalities to those who have been lucky enough not to see them before, or have been ignoring them for the sake of simplicity. Real funding needs to supplement UOA’s action and ensure that students can continue their studies without dragging themselves into more debt.