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    Jul 25, 2014

    Honours to come with degree of ease at NUS

    MORE students may walk away with an honours degree as the National University of Singapore (NUS) lowers the bar that makes them eligible.

    Currently, after their three-year degree courses, only some 60 per cent of students enrolled in the arts and social sciences, business and science faculties qualify to study for the fourth year that makes an honours degree possible.

    This number would rise by 10 to 15 per cent - meaning that another 400-500 students in these faculties could get honours degrees - once the changes are rung in.

    This could mean higher starting pay for these undergraduates. But whether this is sustainable is another issue. One education expert cautioned that the larger pool of honours graduates could dilute the perks that currently come with that degree.

    From next month, changes will be introduced to the Cumulative Average Point (CAP) requirement for the 3,600 students in the three faculties, as well as the 100-odd students in the nursing programme.

    Currently, students who achieved a CAP of 3.5 and more at the end of their third year of study are eligible to pursue their honours degree. From next month, this minimum grade will be reduced to 3.2.

    In the fourth year, students who attain a CAP of 3.0 will be able to graduate with honours, down from the current requirement of 3.2.

    "The quality of students entering NUS has improved. We feel that these students should be eligible for honours, and we should try and keep the students for a four-year programme as much as possible," said NUS provost Tan Eng Chye.

    For student Chen Wei Wei, who will be entering her third year of studies next month, the revision to the CAP will give her a better chance of qualifying for an honours programme.

    "Dropping it to a 3.2 makes it a lot easier for me, because (my CAP) is between the 3.2 and 3.5 range. The reclassification gives me a sense of assurance that I can do an honours degree," she said.

    The 21-year-old plans to specialise in biostatistics in her honours year, and she believes that the extra year will better equip her with the knowledge needed in the industry.

    In Singapore, "an honours degree is still very much valued because in many sectors, it is still a determining factor of how much employers are willing to pay", said Michael Smith, Randstad country director of Singapore.

    However, Stephen Naylor, campus dean at James Cook University Singapore, highlighted that even though honours students are associated with a higher standard, employers will be "particularly conscious of the type of honours (classification)" if there are many fresh graduates applying for the same job.

    Mr Smith also noted that employers today are "looking beyond a fresh graduate's grades, and are seeking the experience and transferrable skills" the person can offer to the firm.

    NUS will be adopting a new naming system for its degree classification too.

    The revisions will apply to incoming students, as well as second and third-year students.