Cranfield University Grading System

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Cranfield University Grading System

After a year or two of intensive study, you finally receive your MBA – but does it really matter what it says on the certificate?

Many MBA programmes operate a grade system and award top students a distinction or merit rather than just a pass. Jeanette Purcell, chief executive of the Association of MBAs, says, “A distinction can give you the edge with employers but the most important thing is that your MBA is from a good school – there’s no point having a distinction if employers don’t recognise the school in the first place.”

MBA grades and whether they should be disclosed to potential employers is a debate that is raging at the top American business schools, including Harvard, Wharton and Stanford. At Harvard, for example, until 1998, students could discuss their grades and potential employers could ask for them. But following a vote by students it was decided that grades should not be discussed and only the top 5 per cent of each graduate class were allowed to tell potential employers about their achievement.

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Now that decision has been reversed and Harvard students are angry, claiming that the disclosure of grades leads to friction and greater competition among the students rather than promoting teamwork.

It’s for just this reason that Cranfield School of Management has chosen not to grade its MBA students. Séan Rickard, MBA director, explains: “Our course is split into two. The first part is the core course that everyone does. If they pass that, they go onto the second part where they can choose courses that they think will be of value to them in later life. If we gave the top 25 per cent a distinction it might stop them choosing courses that might be useful. They might take courses they know they are good at, rather than explore new opportunities. We want people to feel that they can experiment rather than just taking the safe option.