MORE than eight in 10 students on the four-year direct honours degree courses at public universities here graduate with honours or the equivalent.
But only six in 10 of those in the three-year arts and social sciences, business, science and nursing bachelor’s courses at National University of Singapore (NUS) get to the fourth year of study, which allows them to graduate with honours.
To close the gap, NUS is lowering the grade to allow another 10 per cent to 15 per cent of students to qualify for the honours year in these four schools.
This means 400 to 500 more students from these faculties, which take in 3,700 students a year, can move on to the fourth year to study for their honours.
Previously, students in these faculties required a Cumulative Average Point (CAP) of 3.5 and above for honours study. With the change, they need only 3.2.
NUS will keep the three plus one structure, where students do honours in the fourth year if they qualify. Those who qualify but choose not to do honours can opt to graduate with a pass with merit, instead. Every year, some with good job offers do that.
NUS is also renaming the different categories of honours degrees. Like Stanford University in California, NUS is renaming First Class Honours as Honours (Highest Distinction), Second Class (Upper) Honours as Honours (Distinction), Second Class (Lower) Honours as Honours (Merit), and Third Class Honours as Honours.
NUS provost Tan Eng Chye said the university is lowering the requirement for honours year as the quality of its students is high.
Last year, for example, those entering the arts and social sciences course needed grades of A, B, B while those entering business needed triple As. “We have very good students and they should be eligible for honours,” he said.
He also explained why NUS was keeping to the system of requiring or allowing students to exit at the end of the third year, calling it “much more efficient”.
“For some students, giving them this flexibility, especially if they are not too academically inclined, is a better option.”
Those in the direct honours programme have to continue even if their grades show they are unlikely to get a CAP of at least 3 to graduate with honours.
On renaming the honours degrees, Professor Tan said: “The current terms ‘second lower’ and ‘third class’ do not give due recognition to the academic accomplishments of the students who are our better students.”
NUS students interviewed were all for the change. Many said an honours degree matters in a more crowded graduate job market. Vivien Tan, 19, who is entering the arts and social sciences faculty, said: “When applying for universities, one of the considerations for my peers was the proportion of students who graduate with honours.”
NUS second-year science student Chen Wei Wei, 21, said: “Now I stand a better chance of qualifying for honours. I want that as I hope to focus on biostatistics in my fourth year and go on to work in the health sector.” — The Straits Time / Asia News Network