With diploma exams now optional for Alberta students this term, questions are being raised about what that means for those hoping to apply to university.
Earlier this week, Alberta Education said diploma exams will be optional for students this October and November. No decision has been made yet on whether diploma exams will be mandatory or optional for the upcoming terms.
On Friday, the University of Alberta said without a diploma exam mark, students will still be able to apply at the university. The university will accept final, first-quarter grades from the 2020-21 school year as presented on the Alberta Education transcript, regardless of whether students have written their diploma exams.
The U of A said it will continue to follow this practice for any future instances where diploma exams are made optional or cancelled by Alberta Education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university noted that international applicants who are required to demonstrate English Language Proficiency and had intended to fulfill that requirement using English Language Arts 30-1 will only be able to do so if they write the diploma exam. If students don’t write the diploma exam, they will be required to demonstrate ELP with acceptable scores in an English language proficiency test, according to the U of A.
University of Calgary registrar Angelique Saweczko said it has received several inquiries from students since Alberta Education made the decision about diplomas on Tuesday.
“What our message has been to students is we are going to take the final grade as reported by the ministry,” she said Friday.
“If a student chooses to write the diploma and the diploma is included in their final grade, we will use that grade. If a student does not choose not to take the diploma, so it’s not included in their final grade, that is the grade that we will use. Whatever appears on their final transcript.”
Some students have wondered if they will be judged differently if they opt-out of writing their diplomas. Saweczko said the U of C will treat all students the same, whether they write their diplomas or not. However, she stressed that students should consult with every school they are applying to because some may take a different approach.
“This is an institution decision,” she said. “For U of C specifically, we’re just going to take the grade as reported by the ministry. It’s not going to advantage or disadvantage a student from how we’re going to look at it. But whether the diploma will advantage or disadvantage a student is their decision based on what their academic record is at that time.”
Mount Royal University in Calgary said it will also accept the final grade delivered on the Alberta Education transcript for each completed course, “regardless of how that grade was calculated.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for MacEwan University in Edmonton said the school is still looking at the impacts of the issue.
“We are currently working on potential solutions for admission requirements as we see the need to support students. We will continue to ensure that we allow for flexibility in our requirements to respond to the changing circumstances during the pandemic,” Samantha Power said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some school boards have moved to a quarterly approach to the school year, meaning diploma exams for the first term are scheduled to be written at the end of October and early November.
Diploma exams have been made optional in the past, including in Calgary during the 2013 floods and in Fort McMurray during the 2016 wildfires.
Global News has reached out to the University of Lethbridge. This story will be updated if a response is received.