What's So Wrong With a Degree Transcript Anyway?

08/10/2012 13:55 BST | Updated 08/10/2012 13:55 BST

Universities are looking to adopt the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) as a means of providing a tangible record of students' achievements outside of the lecture-hall. This will work in lieu of a degree transcript, which has been denigrated for showing only the bare minimum of a student's achievement at university; their degree classification.

Professor Sir Robert Burgess, chair of the Burgess Implementation Steering Group for the HEAR, praises it as a "sophisticated approach to recording the skills and knowledge students gain during their time in higher education." However, the HEAR will not make a discernible difference to graduates when applying for jobs and is an exorbitant waste of money, attempting to 'update' the student experience just for the sake of it.

Advocates of the HEAR scoff at the final degree classification awarded to students on a flimsy bit of paper, barren of all the extracurricular activities they participated in, void of the details of all the societies they have run; fodder for the recycling bin. Proposed instead, is a school-style report, chronicling each extracurricular success and non-academic activity embraced by the student during their tenure at university and deemed appropriate by the awarding university.

The HEAR can be a boon for students who do not achieve the hallowed 2.1 classification, the yardstick many employers use to weed out applicants. Although, this is contingent on how pervasive the HEAR becomes in the job application process. If employers maintain their current classification filter against graduates who have not achieved a 2.1, then the HEAR is rendered less useful. Much less useful, considering the HEAR's primary aim is to combat the "damaging obsession with 'first' and 'upper second' degree classifications," exhibited by 76% of employers.

If the HEAR is intended to boost the prospects of those who do not get the grades, employers will have to cooperate and be willing to consider applications from a wider range of students who may bring other skills to the table, demonstrated in their HEAR. Although, of course, many graduates with a 2.1 or first class degree will also have a similar repertoire of impressive skills and activities, negating the benefits of the HEAR for those who are automatically filtered out of the job application process.

Another question that has to be raised is, which activities will universities deem worthy of publishing on the HEAR? Whilst no one is questioning the eligibility of society positions and volunteering stints, what of the student who takes on a part-time job, to the detriment of extracurricular activities? Students who have to supplement their student loan may end up with a sparser record and ostensibly less to show for their time at university.

Additionally, in order for universities to validate activities, they have to have been completed within the Student Union and activities completed outside of the student bubble and in the local community will go unrecognised. The HEAR may also disadvantage students with more contact hours, who may not be able to make as high a level commitment- does mere participation in a society grant recognition or will more and more students be forced to compete for a handful of society positions?

The Burgess Group is overestimating the value of the HEAR in graduate employability, believing that it will "significantly enhance [...] employability." Students already run societies, volunteer for organisations and participate in a plethora of other activities that contribute to their employability. They don't need a written record to prove it and they will certainly get a chance to inform prospective employers about their achievements whilst filling out long-winded graduate job application forms and during interviews.

The HEAR committee fallaciously believe they are providing better value for money, but are implementing a costly e-record that will drain resources. Initial running costs are estimated to be between £25,000 and £80,000 a year, per institution, funds that could be used to improve the quality of the student experience, not just document it. I have just graduated from university without the HEAR and found that a lack of written record of my extracurricular successes has not nullified the scope of my achievements, nor has it proved a hindrance in the job market.

Rather than trying to make students look more employable, universities could take action to further the prospects of their graduates in a tangible, lasting way. Providing a written record of achievement is all well and good, but will not in any way improve a graduate's journey through the job market.