For a fair conversion of jurisprudential grades in the law and politics degree programme
18.05.2020, Frankfurt (Oder)
Dear Prof. Dr. Kocher,
Dear Prof. Dr. Thiele,
Dear Prof. Dr. Häde,
regarding the fact that the first year of the Law and Politics degree programme will soon be graduating and that, despite numerous complaints from the student body, nothing has changed in the grading practice so far, we, the students of the Law and Politics degree programme, are writing this open letter.
Up to now, our law grades have been translated into cultural studies grades by means of a standard scheme, in which the different assessment culture between the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Cultural Studies regularly leads to a significant deterioration of the grade average at the expense of the students. Students who achieve a good, above-average performance in a law exam with 8 points must live with the fact that this is translated into a 2.7, which is below average for the Faculty of Cultural Studies. An average law exam with 6 points even translates into a weak cultural studies grade of 3.3. It is therefore much more difficult and requires much more effort to achieve the same good performance at the law faculty as at the faculty of cultural studies.
The different assessment practices have grown historically - as interdisciplinary students, we know that both have their advantages for assessment in the respective department. But these different assessments now have tangible effects on the final grade of our Bachelor's programme, because unlike in the law programme, every exam in the BA Law and Politics flows into our final grade. A weak final grade can hinder the path to attractive Master's programmes, internships, stays abroad, scholarships and the professional world, or possibly block it altogether. The current regulations put us at a disadvantage both compared to students of purely social science programmes, who regularly achieve better degrees, and compared to law students, as the special assessment practice at law faculties is widely known.
Example: Those who want to apply for a Master's programme at Oxford University and have to prove the equivalent of a British "strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours" need a final grade of at least 1.9 as an undergraduate student, and a final grade of at least 6.5 points as a law student. Law and politics students are at a disadvantage because they take the same exams as law students - but while law students would need an average of 7 points (which translates into a 3.0), Law and Politics students would need an average of 11 points to jump over the 1.9 hurdle.
However, changing this unfair assessment practice is not only in the interest of the students who want to have a realistic chance at attractive Master's programmes - it is also in the interest of the university as it increases the attractiveness of the programme! The Law and Politics degree programme sharpens the interdisciplinary profile of the university; and it brings committed, critically thinking students to the Viadrina, who are involved in numerous student committees and initiatives and thus represent a real enrichment for our university. And yet, unfortunately, the enrolment figures for the degree programme are falling significantly; the attractiveness of the degree programme could be increased by finally making it more student-friendly.
A possible solution to the problem is on the table (see appendix): Depending on the average of a law course, it could be graded with a difficulty index. Based on this, students in the Law and Politics programme could receive an adjusted grade that takes into account the different assessment practices.
This would be one way in which a fair solution could be achieved for the students without too much effort. We are also ready to discuss constructive counter-proposals that would be able to seriously mitigate this problem. Urgency is required, because the longer this process takes, the more students will leave the university without a solution to the problem of their grade conversion having been found.
Therefore, we call on you: sit down with us and let us act together quickly so that students and the university can benefit from a more attractive Law and Politics degree programme as soon as possible!
The students of the Law and Politics programme