More leeway to excel at universities here

More leeway to excel at universities here
NUS students performing at a Rag Day event at NUS University Town last week.

Dropping poor grades, lower criteria for the honours' track and doing away with names like "third class".

Universities here are getting kindler and gentler. But life on campus will not become easier, said experts.

Amid concerns of lower standards after recent changes by Singapore's two biggest varsities, educators are confident that the quality of graduates will not suffer.

"It's a message to students that they can relax a little and enjoy learning," said Dr Timothy Chan from private institution SIM Global Education. "But there are still exams and assessment, and they need to do well in the next few years."

Nanyang Technological University (NTU) announced last week that it will allow its freshmen to "remove" F grades in their first year.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) announced a similar change in May. The school also made it easier to qualify for its honours programme and renamed its degrees, tweaking the stigmatised "third class honours", among others.

The changes led to criticisms of lower standards. Some readers who weighed in on The Straits Times' Facebook page asked if these moves are "tactics" to woo students.

But both experts and students believe there are more pros than cons.

An NUS spokesman said its quality of student intake has risen over the years, and its revision of the honours criteria is to allow more deserving students to graduate with honours.

Last year, for instance, students needed grades of ABB to enter its arts and social sciences faculty, compared to Bs and Cs in the late 1990s.

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