SINGAPORE - More than 80 or 90 per cent of students on four-year direct honours programmes at publicly-funded universities here graduate with honours or the equivalent. But only 60 per cent of those in the three-year arts and social sciences, business, nursing and science degree courses at the National University of Singapore (NUS) qualify for the fourth year of study, which allows them to graduate with honours.
To close the gap, NUS is lowering the grade to qualify for the honours year in these four schools which take in some 3,700 students a year. This means another 10 to 15 per cent - 400 to 500 students- from these faculties can move on to the fourth year to study for their honours.
Previously, students in these faculties require a Cumulative Average Point (CAP) of 3.5 and above to qualify for honours study. With the change, they need only 3.2. NUS, though, will stick to its policy of keeping the the three plus one structure. Students who fail to notch up a score of at least 3.2 will have to exit the course.
NUS Provost Tan Eng Chye said the university decided to lower the requirement as the quality of students has gone up over the years. Students need As and Bs to enter most of the courses now. Last year, for example, students needed a ABB to enter the arts and social sciences course and those entering business needed triple As.
" We have very good students and they should be eligible for honours. We should try and keep these students for four years as much as possible," said Professor Tan.
Another change that the university is making applies to the names for the different categories of honours degrees. Like American universities such as Stanford in California, NUS will from next year rename first-class honours as honours with highest distinction, second class upper honours as honours with distinction, second lower honours as honours with merit and third class honours as honours.
"The current terms 'second lower' and 'third class' are demeaning and do not give due recognition to the academic accomplishments of the students who are our better students," said Prof Tan.
NUS students interviewed were all for the change with many saying that in a more crowded graduate job market, having a honours degree matters.