Starting in 2014, UBC faculties will be able to mandate minimum grades in certain high school courses for those applying to UBC.
Andrew Arida, UBC associate registrar of undergraduate admissions, said this measure is aimed at the growing number of applicants who load up on easier electives to inflate their overall admissions average. The policy was approved by the UBC Senate at their last meeting, and will come into effect for the class starting September 2014.
“Students will have to put an emphasis on bringing up their grades in their weakest courses when those courses are critical pre-requisites, not just taking any course to bring up their overall average,” said Arida.
UBC’s hope is that mandatory minimum averages in specific courses will allow each faculty to better select students who will be successful in their studies. For example, if students’ marks in English 12 give the best indication of how well they’d do in completing a UBC BA, the university thinks this should take precedence in admissions decisions over marks in other, less-relevant courses.
The threshold numbers will be up to individual faculties to decide, and they’ll select numbers based on the performance of current and previous UBC students as compared to their high school grades. The threshold marks will be lower than the general admissions average cut-off.
UBC already has a policy to reject any applicants from Canadian high schools with averages below 70 per cent. There’s also a required grade of 70 per cent in English 12 (or an equivalent course) for all faculties, and a requirement of 67 per cent in Math 12 for science students.
“This is about saying that it’s competitive,” said Arida. “It’s an additional criterion that can be used to rank order applicants … because again we have far more demand than we have space for at UBC.”
Students who don’t meet the mandatory minimum averages could still be considered for admission through UBC’s recently-implemented broad-based admissions process, which allows some students to be ranked on extracurriculars and life experience rather than just marks.
Kiran Mahal, Vice-President Academic at UBC’s AMS student society, hopes this move will help high school students focus on improving their grades in core courses.
“It’s kind of shifting the way students look at admission to UBC,” said Mahal.
While both Arida and Mahal see the policy as a way of setting students up for success, second-year Sauder student Andrew Lowe isn’t so sure.
“I don’t know if average would be the best metric, because I know school isn’t just about grades,” Lowe said. “It’s definitely going to prove to be tough for some students.”
UBC consulted with students and counselors at high schools across B.C. before adopting the measure. Many other Canadian universities, including McGill and the University of Toronto, have similar policies.
The policy was passed by the UBC Vancouver senate on Feb. 13, and will be voted on by the UBC Okanagan senate at the end of the month.