Why The Grade On Your Degree Certificate Is Worthless*.
Ok so hear me out here.
*First and foremost, I was an illustration graduate and my experiences and views are based solely on being a creative industries student. I am perfectly sure that if you were to sit an academic paper the grade is a LOT more pertinent because it can set you apart from other candidates when you're applying for jobs.
I graduated with a 2:1 Honours and yes, I was one of those people who couldn't settle for an upper second class. Nah, I wanted the First and when I didn't get it and when I KNEW I wasn't getting it with about 6 months to go, I became increasingly aware that in creative industries, the mark on your certificate when you walk across that stage with your cap and gown, is a little bit pointless.
The problem with creative industries (I'm talking media, theatre, performance, film, photography, fine art, animation, graphic design, illustration etc etc etc) is the way it is marked. Basically, it's wildly unfair and at the end of the day comes down to the people who see your final piece and what they make of it. Sure you can help yourself along by ya know, handing in everything your tutors ask for but at the end of the day it comes down to the final piece of work you create in third year and nothing else.
You'll sit through assessments time and time again thinking "I don't even know what the criteria is for this mark". You know the grade boundaries sure but the explanation of what you have to do to get it? Bullshit. Read an art assessment grade criteria and it's all big words with no meaning. It's all 'critical understanding' and 'concept' and it doesn't actually amount to any tangible thing you can say yep, ticked that off the check list, 1st class come at me.
All the way through university, the time and effort you put into your course reflected in your marks. There was a part on our assessment criteria in which you had to discuss your dedication to the course, to the outside learning you did, to the time spent in studio and in 1st and 2nd year that counted for something. But third year ohhhh third year is a whole different kettle of fish. Suddenly all that hard work and time you'd invested the previous 2 years was null and void and your final grade revolved around the work you put out for your final show.
The absolute worst part of the grading system for a qualifying creative industries student is the 'final outcome'. You have been working your balls off for 3 years and then to find out it all comes down to ONE module of work marked by a handful of tutors (yours) is infuriating. I watched people in my class at uni slave over their work for the whole three years only to get the same grade as people who we saw 3 times a year. We fundraised HARD for New Designers when others didn't and yet we all got the same marks and all got to exhibit in London? I watched someone get told with about a fortnight to go that maybe he could squeeze another project in when some people worked on one project for the entire year. I finished my dissertation early, I had my final books printed well in advance, I slaved over the exhibition with my classmates and at the end of the day none of that counted. The amount of work we did didn't count. Our attendance didn't count. Our dedication didn't count. And it just makes you wonder why you bothered to put in that much effort when you could've slacked off, not turned up and just strolled in at the end and got the same grade.
It leaves a really bitter sweet taste in your mouth when your certificate comes through the letterbox because although you KNOW you tried hard and you think you might deserve that grade more than the next person, you know that ultimately, on paper you are the same.
Art degree students work is marked by their own tutors and then an external examiner oversees the shows around the country to make sure they are all marking round about the same. We were told off the bat that only EXCEPTIONAL students got a first class in creative industries because it is so subjective. In an academic subject, in theory you can answer all the questions right and get a first but in a creative subject you can put in ALL the effort and if your tutors think your final piece is shit, you've had it mate. When I went to New Designers EVERYONE (and that is not an exaggeration) that I spoke to had qualified with a first and it just doesn't add up to me that ALL those people were so much more exceptional that any single person in my faculty.
So what's the good news? Well that degree you just paid out £35K for is pretty worthless in terms of grade. You will NEVER be asked your degree grade when applying for jobs in the creative industries; people only care about your skills and your portfolio. I have yet to pitch for a job in which anyone cares what grade I have and that's good news if you aren't happy with the number on your graduation certificate. The strength of your portfolio is THE most vital thing and even if your tutors don't like it, you'll be perfect for someone else's job.
So creative industries third year students of Britain, don't stress yourself out these final few months over the number on your paper; it don't matter anyway.