Senate to Raise Minimum Admission Average by 3%

At this month’s meeting, Senate will be deciding on a proposal to raise the minimum average for admission to UBC by 3%, from 67% to 70%, a figure which has remained unchanged since 1963.

While it may seem that discussion of a university-wide minimum is of limited relevance given that the actual cut-off for most programs is in the 80′s or even 90′s, it may be surprising to learn that there are still students admitted to UBC with averages below 70%. The Senate Admissions Committee have found that these students are much less likely to succeed in university, with 45% having failed, or on academic probation after the first year. It is argued that these students should no longer be admitted as they are unlikely to succeed while at university. Notable exceptions are Music and HKin.

The relevant section of the report is reproduced below and is interesting in its discussion about the challenges the university faces when admitting these students.


Type of Action: Raise the university minimum admission average for applicants from secondary school to First Year undergraduate programs to 70%.

Rationale: Students admitted to undergraduate programs delivered on the UBC Vancouver campus typically present admission averages that are much higher than the current university minimum of 67%. Cut-offs for entry to most programs in 2010 lay in the 80%+ range, with some in the 90%+ range. Even programs that can physically accommodate students with averages below 75% have largely held to 75% as a standard for admission on interim grades because students with anything less typically struggle.

Despite high competitive admission cut-offs, the minimum academic standard of 67% is not a dormant measure. Admission offers made on competitive interim grades are retained so long as final grades remain above the university minimum. There are students at UBC because, when their interim grades collapsed, they did not fall below 67%. There are also students at UBC in programs which consider criteria other than purely academic ones. In these programs, 67% establishes the limit for such consideration.

Analysis of data on the performance of students admitted with averages close to or at the university minimum from 2005-2008 reveals generally poor academic performance, particularly for those admitted with averages <70%. A total of 45% failed or were on academic probation after their first year of study, with 100% failure in a number of programs. Only a few programs were able to admit students to the current minimum and see those students succeed, including Human Kinetics and Music. In these programs the admission average, as currently structured, is not a good indicator of potential success in the program and other factors and aptitudes come into play.

Analysis of the data also revealed that students with admission averages <70% are at a much higher risk of withdrawing from the University. Thirty-one percent dropped out after first year, another 15% dropped out after year 2 and a further 5% dropped out in year 3. This represents a total retention rate of only 50% for the group. Compare this with the retention rates for UBC Vancouver undergraduate students from 2000-2006 which ranged between 88.8-91.3% for progression to 2nd year and 81.9-86.5% for progression to 3rd year. The Senate Admissions Committee believes that the current minimum admission average of 67%, approved by Senate in 1963, no longer serves the original stated purpose to “exclude from the First Year such students as experience has shown might not be capable of completing successfully the work that year” and does not reflect UBC’s status in 2010 as one of the top universities in the world. It recommends that the minimum be raised to 70% (C+) or the equivalent in education systems outside of British Columbia.

A higher minimum admission average is anticipated to have the following benefits:

  • Reduce the number and proportion of students who fail or are placed on academic probation in first year
  • Increase student retention and persistence to degree completion
  • Reduce demand on support systems for students who are the least academically prepared to succeed at UBC, thereby permitting greater allocation of academic support resources to other students
  • Establish a more realistic academic minimum for consideration of students on special criteria

Consultation with various groups that may be impacted by the change to the minimum has been conducted. This included the International Student Initiative, Athletics, Aboriginal Coordinators, and programs that admit students to the university minimum. It is believed that the proposed higher minimum takes the well-being of the students in these various groups into consideration and that mechanisms to address individual cases where other factors may be relevant are available.


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  1. If a student wanted to be admitted to UBC and did not meet the minimum, they could always try to enter after a year of post-secondary education elsewhere, right?

    If the consultations had no problem with this, then I guess I would have no problem with this either.

    Posted by Michael C | December 10, 2010, 1:09 am
  2. I wonder to what extent this situation is a by-product of grade inflation. It is quite likely that a C+ (67%) in 1963 is not comparable to a 63% today.

    Did the report break down these categories by ESL, in-province/out-of-province? These are factors that might have some impact as well.

    Posted by Charles Menzies | December 10, 2010, 5:25 am
  3. Michael, you’re correct that this affects only direct-entry admissions from HS, not transfer student. It’s been documented that transfer students have an easier time getting in already.

    And I’m not sure what effect grade inflation has on the minimum. Certainly, it’s responsible for the ever increasing cut-offs seen, now into the 90′s. But presumably, a 67% student would be considered mediocre in the 1960′s the same as it is nowadays. Since 1963 is a few decades before my birth, I won’t attempt to speculate any further.

    Posted by Neal Yonson | December 10, 2010, 3:29 pm
  4. I’d have to play the part of the general apathetic public and say that because I’m now a UBC student, I really could care less, even if I WAS let in with a 67%.

    That’s why it’s never a good idea to have people who aren’t affected by the change to make the decision. I still a little cheesed off that Sauder students voted for a $500 student fee increase that I will have to pay for, and not them.

    Posted by Michael C | December 25, 2010, 3:30 pm
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