SNU makes academic honors harder to earn

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SNU makes academic honors harder to earn

Seoul National University (SNU) said Sunday it will drastically revise its academic distinction system for honoring graduates with summa cum laude and magna cum laude degrees as a way of combatting grade inflation.

SNU, the oldest national university in Korea with a main campus in Gwanak District, southwestern Seoul, is widely considered the country’s most distinguished higher education institute. It ranked 31st in the QS World University Rankings of 2014 and 2015, a single slot below the University of Tokyo.

Considering SNU’s prominence, Sunday’s decision will likely affect other domestic universities. Most universities in Korea follow a system similar to SNU’s previous system.

Starting from the next semester, the honorary title of summa cum laude will be awarded to graduates whose cumulative grade point average (GPA) is among the top 10 percent of his or her department. Students in the top 30 percent will take home magna cum laude.

In the previous system, students with GPAs of 3.9 or over - on a scale of 4.3 - received summa cum laude, while those with GPAs of 3.6 or more received magna cum laude.

Early this year, nearly half (45 percent) of the entire graduating class of SNU was awarded with either summa or magna cum laude, up from roughly 34 percent in 2011. Of the 2,541 students who graduated in February, 363 people, or nearly 14 percent, received summa cum laude; 780 others, or some 31 percent, received magna cum laude.

“[The school has come to notice] how the previous system worsened grade inflation, undermined the value of education and prompted students to take only courses [whose professors] were said to give out good grades,” a source from SNU said.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, SOHN KOOK-HEE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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