“Last month, the university held NTUtopia, which undergraduates said exclusively targeted those from scholar programmes or with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.75 out of five” (Invite-Only Career Fair for Top NTU Students Draws Flak, Jolene Ang).
Given the recent policy moves by the Ministry of Education to reduce emphasis on school-based tests at the primary and secondary school levels, and to correspondingly focus on lifelong learning instead , the apparent decision by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to limit publicity of one of its career fair based on grade performance per se – targeting those “from scholar programmes or with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.75 out of five” (ST, Oct. 7) – appears ill-timed and poorly justified. And if it is true, as per the interview with a final-year undergraduate reported in the paper, that organisers also screened resumes or checked for GPAs at the door, the university is likely to be doing those who were excluded a disservice.
Beyond the obvious but important point that academic or grade performance is but one of the many indicators considered in a job application – in addition to internships and past work or industry experience, co-curricular activities and community service, as well as actual fit with the company – the criteria excludes those who may be making progress or working to improve their grades in their final year. 40 per cent of the graduating cohort, therefore, were not invited, unless they wrote in or turned up separately. At this stage too, it is not clear how the 3.75 cut-off was decided: Whether there was a capacity limit or if a few thousand students could be accommodated? If participating employers were aware of or perhaps even requested for the cut-off? And how many similar career events are organised by NTU, and the number of which have the same publicity or entry arrangements?
A possible counter-argument is that recruiters or companies themselves oftentimes use grades to filter out candidates in the first place, and that in this vein NTU is taking that first step by branding its invite-only career fair exclusively (this is also why ascertaining who decided on the criteria is critical). Yet these recruiters and companies can already do that, and on the other hand universities should help their undergraduates maximise opportunities regardless of their backgrounds or scholastic profiles: Career and industry talks, networking events based on areas of specialisation, and other career services.