The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: Supporting Northeastern’s decision to record grades
Katie Mulcahy

Northeastern is known for its innovative and forward-thinking approach to education. With initiatives like the co-op program and the program, it continually seeks to differentiate itself from other universities and offer students distinctive opportunities for growth and exploration. However, this commitment makes it difficult to assess the university’s performance in comparison to other institutions that adhere to more conventional educational models.

Unlike traditional study abroad programs many universities offer, the program stands out for its integration of academic coursework with experiential learning opportunities in diverse global settings. Rather than solely learning from classes, students have the opportunity to grow through their experiences of traveling around their chosen location, meeting local people and adapting to cultural changes. This emphasis on experiential learning is essential for fostering transformative study abroad experiences that go beyond the confines of the classroom. 

While this uniqueness is undoubtedly appealing to students seeking a study abroad experience, it also presents challenges in terms of identifying the most effective methods for grading while studying abroad. Although Boston University offers a similar program where students get to study in London for a semester, the students’ grades are ultimately averaged into their grade point average. Since there are few comparable programs at other institutions, Northeastern faces difficulty in comparing the program against similar offerings, making it challenging to assess whether the methods the program employs are the most effective for studying abroad.

Northeastern’s recent decision to record students’ grades on their transcript has sparked discussions about balancing academic rigor and experiential learning in study abroad experiences. While some may question removing the previous flexible grading system, which excluded grades students received while on from their transcripts,  I argue Northeastern made the right choice in prioritizing academic accountability and fostering a culture of excellence within the program.

Despite providing students a safety net, the previous grading system could inadvertently undermine the academic seriousness of the program. By allowing only a portion of students to have pass/fail grading, the system risked diminishing the value of academic achievement and potentially incentivized students to prioritize exploration over scholarly engagement. 

Removing this option sends a clear message that Northeastern is committed to upholding high academic standards and ensuring students are adequately challenged during their study abroad experiences. Moreover, it’s important to consider the fairness to students on campus who worked equally hard to gain admission to the university and who may not have the option for pass/fail grading in their coursework for a semester.

It is important to recognize that other study abroad opportunities Northeastern offers, such as Dialogue of Civilizations and traditional study abroad programs, do not typically include a pass/fail grading option. Maintaining the decision to eliminate the’s former grading system creates consistency in grading policies across various programs offered by the university, promoting fairness and equity among students participating in different global education initiatives. By aligning the program with these established standards, Northeastern demonstrates a commitment to maintaining academic integrity across all of its study abroad experiences.

Furthermore, the absence of direct institutions to compare itself to limits opportunities to work together and share knowledge. While Northeastern’s innovative spirit drives it to pioneer new approaches to global education, the lack of comparable programs at other universities may hinder the exchange of ideas and best practices in the field. Collaborative efforts with peer institutions often lead to greater innovation and improvement in program design and implementation.

Despite these challenges, Northeastern’s commitment to innovation remains a cornerstone of its educational philosophy. By pushing the boundaries of traditional academic models and embracing novel approaches to experiential learning, Northeastern provides students with unparalleled opportunities for personal and academic growth. However, as the university continues to innovate, balancing the pursuit of uniqueness with the need for collaboration within the broader higher education landscape is essential. Doing so will ensure that Northeastern remains at the forefront of global education while leveraging peer institutions’ collective wisdom and expertise.

By eliminating the pass/fail grading option, Northeastern reaffirms its dedication to providing students with challenging and meaningful study abroad experiences. The decision underscores the university’s commitment to academic excellence and prepares students for success in an increasingly competitive global landscape. Moreover, it promotes a culture of accountability and intellectual growth, encouraging students to fully engage with their academic coursework and cultural surroundings while abroad.


Nia Thompson is a first-year behavioral neuroscience & philosophy combined major. They can be reached at [email protected].


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