Saturday, November 1, 2014
Last updated: 8 hours ago

UBC faculties can now impose minimum mark cut-offs for high school courses

Photo Hogan Wong/The Ubyssey

Photo Hogan Wong/The Ubyssey

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.

  • Qin

    What’s the point of doing this if there are no longer mandatory provincial exams for courses other than English 12?* High school teachers will face tremendous pressure from parents and students to increase their marks above the threshold set by UBC while having relatively little incentive not to inflate their students’ grades, especially if other teachers are doing the same.

    The incoming GPAs are already inflated. I remember my AP Physics class had a class average of 90%. We all got 5s on the AP test and we all did well on our provincials. Yet, 90% nowadays can barely get one into Science. The provincial exams keep teachers honest and makes it possible to compare Mr. X’s Physics 12 in Vancouver College to Mr. C’s class in Abbotsford HIgh.

    UBC should use the admission system adopted by most American schools. Standardized testing and class rank. The standardized tests makes the playing field fair for all students and the class ranking system makes grade inflation pointless.

    * I’ve graduated from high school several years ago so I’m not sure if this is still the case.

    • Ratchet Backlash

      Awesome avatar, I love that game

  • anonymous

    To anybody who doesn’t think school is just about grades, think again. UBC is a well-known academic research institution and grades are the best indicator as to how well a student can perform in an academic setting.

  • Guest

    To anybody who doesn’t think school is about grades, think again. UBC is a well-known academic research institution, and grades are the best indicator as to how well a student can perform in an academic setting.