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German Council of Science and Humanities makes uncomfortable discovery

In a report published in November 2012, disconcerting trends in marking practices at German universities have been unveiled by the German Council of Science and Humanities. "In Germany, the grade with which we graduate does not only depend on our achievements during final exams, but also on what and where we study," says Wolfgang Marquardt, head of the Council which produced the report.

As highlighted by bachelor exams in 2010, four out of five students were awarded with an ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, the two top grades in the German marking system.  But what does this mean when 95 per cent of all the candidates reached the same score? Law and medicine appear to be the only two subjects in which the majority of students are still deemed ‘satisfactory’.

This tendency to award better grades compared to previous years is becoming a global trend, as higher education systems in Britain and North America seem to suffer the same fate. This has numerous reasons: increase in high quality students (as some institutions try to put it); increased competition between institutions and courses, who simplify testing to attract more students; professors who want to give students better chances to succeed in life or simply wish to have a good image (as all their students have great marks); etc.

As Wolfgang Marquard puts it without mincing his words: “The grades which students currently receive say almost nothing meaningful about their real achievement.” This does not only affect universities, but also employers, as they struggle to make decisions about applicants based solely on university grades.

Council of Science and Humanities - Report (in German) Center for Education and Employment Research - A-Levels 2011