NUS will lower requirements for honours degree classification from August 2014

More students from the National University of Singapore will now be able to graduate with an honours degree. 

This comes as the university lowers the requirements to qualify for the honours programme. 

This will apply to arts, business, science and nursing students, and will come into effect from August this year. 

Previously, students needed a Cumulative Average Point, or CAP, of 3.5 out of 5, to first qualify for the honours programme. 

And they'll need to maintain a CAP of at least 3.2, to graduate with an honours degree. 

But from August, they'll only need a CAP of 3.2 to qualify, and 3.0 to graduate. 

About 60 per cent of students in these faculties now graduate with an honours degree. 

But with the changes, an estimated 10 to 15 per cent more students will be able to do so. 

This works out to about 4 to 5 hundred more honours graduates. 

Explaining the move, NUS provost Tan Eng Chye said graduates without an honours degree may be disadvantaged in terms of starting pay. 

" If you look at employers in general, they do look at the classification of the degrees. They look at whether the student has an honours degree, or a non-honours degree."

Third-year Science student Chen Wei Wei would not have qualified for the honours programme under the old criteria. 

So she's delighted with the change. 

"Currently I'm working very hard to pull my CAP up in order for me to do my honours degree. So the change reassures me that just by keeping my grades where they are, and improving, definitely my honours degree is there for me."

Professor Tan explained how the university's honours programme will accommodate the increase in students. 

"In tandem with the increase in the number of honours students, we're going to employ more professors to teach them. So the quality will not be compromised."

NUS is also renaming its honours degree classification. 

They're now called "first class", "second class upper", "second class lower", and "third class". 

And their new names are: "honours with the highest distinction", "honours with distinction", "honours with merit" and "honours" respectively. 

For Professor Tan, this will reflect the academic accomplishments of graduates more accurately. 

"The current terms, especially for the second lower, and the third class, may appear a little bit demeaning for our students, and actually not giving due recognition. By and large, the honours students are our best students. And therefore I think we have to recognise them as such."

Third-year Economics student Kuai Jian Hui, however, expressed some concern.

"What I'm worried is that employers might not know the difference between getting a distinction, or getting a merit, or getting a normal honours degree."

For now, Professor Tan says feedback about the changes has been positive. 

He says he's consulted employers, and they've been supportive of the changes. 

-By Lianne Chia