RWC pilots ‘no mark’ wellbeing scheme

First year students at Cardiff's Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama no longer receive academic marks comparing them with classmates

In a pilot scheme intended to support students’ wellbeing as they transition into higher education, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama has stopped giving first year students their academic marks. In a trial programme, the College has removed the number attached to their feedback, allowing students to instead focus on personal growth and development of skills.

“First year students arriving at the College have spent the last decade in education being marked and placed in a table of comparison to their classmates,” explains Director of Student Experience, Brian Weir. “We found that students were concentrating on their mark and where it placed them in their cohort, rather than taking on board the written feedback.

“We wanted to ease that transition from school to higher education, and work with the students in partnership, while encouraging them to take responsibility for their own progress. This project aims to show students that the College is interested in them as a person, not as a ranking. We want to work with them on their particular strengths and skills, rather than where they are in their class.”

“It really does seem to be reducing pressure, and making the transition to higher education that bit easier.”

“It’s well known that there is a higher percentage of mental health issues in the performing arts,” continues Weir. “As a College training students for that industry we have always been aware of the additional stresses this places on our students, above and beyond the usual pressures of moving away from home and starting the next stage of adulthood.

“The feedback has been very positive so far. We have already found that removing the grading makes the student much more receptive to concentrating on their personal progress. Very few students have actually come to ask for their mark, although it is available to them. It really does seem to be reducing that pressure, and making the transition to higher education that bit easier.”

The College will review the success of the project at the end of the year, but the hope is to extend the scheme across RWC in the coming years.