The National University of Singapore (NUS) Law School is doubling the number of students eligible for first class honours degree from the present top 5 per cent of each cohort to the top 10 per cent, a move hailed by industry players and students alike.
The landmark policy revision, the first in a decade, will start with students graduating in June this year.
The review will also see more students awarded the second class (upper division) honours degree – an expected range of between 65 per cent and 68 per cent compared to the current 50 per cent.
With the latest revision, in a cohort of 240 students, for example, up to 24 students could be awarded first class honours while the next 156 students at 65 per cent could attain the second class (upper division) honours degree.
NUS Law Faculty dean, Professor Simon Chesterman, said in a letter to the students yesterday that the honours policy revision will bring the university closer to comparable universities in Britain and Australia.
He wrote: “Other top law schools with a comparable cohort size – such as Oxford, London School of Economics and University College London – are awarding first class honours in the range of 12 per cent to 24 per cent, and second class (upper division) honours degree in the range of 67 per cent to 82 per cent.
“In view of the high quality of our students, NUS finds it timely to bring its honours awards closer to its peers.”
Past and present law school students who cheered the changes said the moves underscored the quality of NUS law students.
Drew & Napier trainee lawyer Benjamin Foo, 26, who graduated last year with first class honours, said: “I knew of many deserving students who fell just short of being in the top 5 per cent.”
Fourth-year student Hairul Hakkim, 25, who has been on the Dean’s List every year in 2013, 2014 and 2015, said he welcomes the move for giving “deserved recognition to students who have worked hard for it”.
Second-year student Rachel Tan, 27, added that the increase should not be seen as a “dilution of the class of honours, as NUS will still award a lower proportion of first and second upper class honours degrees compared to other universities”.
The policy revision caps the latest milestone by Prof Chesterman in his four years as the dean in leading the NUS Faculty of Law as Asia’s top law school. “The quality of the students coming in is so good that we think it is unfair to say to almost half of them: ‘You are going to graduate with a lower second honours’, which makes them look like they didn’t work as hard as their peers when it is just a function of mathematics,” he said.
The revision followed a review and analysis of the honours class numbers in peer institutions, such as Oxford University. The increase, however, was still seen by some people in the profession and within the faculty as “still too small and still not enough”, added Prof Chesterman.
TSMP Law’s joint managing director, Stephanie Yuen Thio, said: “We have hired first class honours graduates from foreign universities who do not hold a candle to some of the second upper graduates from Singapore universities.
“It’s time to level the playing field.”
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