UU turns off coloured grades in MyUU app after criticism

Physics student Jim does like the colour codes. Photo: DUB

From Monday, March 4 onwards, UU students using the MyUU app could download the latest update. The important buttons are now positioned at the bottom of the screen, and schedules can only be viewed day by day. On top of that, all grades received so far were given distinct colours: an insufficient grade was red, a 6 to 6.9 was black, all grades between 7 and 7.9 were green, and 8 or higher was yellow. A number of UUers quickly voiced their discontent with the colour codes. They increase the pressure to perform amongst students, and the colours influence emotions, they feel. Hanneke, a student of the double Bachelor’s programme Physics and Astronomy and Maths: “The colour codes strengthen the idea that an insufficient grade isn’t good enough. They emphasise how much better a higher grade is. I agree, of course I like getting high grades and I’m not as happy with a lower grade. But the grade itself is confrontational enough.”

Story continues below this illustration. The 9.5 on the image on the left should be yellow.

In response to the complaints, the department of Student, Education and Research (SO&O) turned off the colour codes. The decision to add colours to grades, says Marieke de Bakker, head of the department of Student Affairs, came from developer StuComm. “Their research showed that the colours had a positive effect on the achieved grades.” After the students criticised the move, they were turned off again. De Bakker: “Utrecht University takes the signs regarding student wellness and pressure to perform extraordinarily seriously. At the end of 2019, we’ll conduct a more thorough study on the needs of students for colour-coded results. If it turns out there is in fact a wish to show them colour-coded, we can decide to turn the colour codes on again.”

Not everyone struggled with the coloured grades. In fact, some liked them, including physics student Jim. “That colours of grades would increase the pressure to perform is absolute nonsense. The university can encourage students to get high grades. The colours ensure you can see whether your grade is good at a single glance.”

History student Nynke says the colour codes didn’t bother her. “I like colours and they make me happy, but they don’t increase my pressure to perform. It is weird that the highest grades are yellow and not green, though. My attention goes to the grades themselves, not the colours they have.”