Ultra Vires


Mandatory Credit/No Credit System Implemented

Faculty of Law makes unprecedented decision for Winter 2020 semester amidst COVID-19 pandemic

The Moot Court Room in the Jackman Law Building. Photo courtesy of the U of T Faculty of Law.

On Friday, 20 March 2020, U of T’s Faculty of Law implemented a general credit/no credit grading scheme for all JD students in all courses this semester, including full-year courses such as first-year small group.

As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted students’ lives—by closing educational spaces and recreational facilities and requiring Graduate House residents to move out—students began advocating for changes to the semester’s grading scheme at the Faculty of  Law. These discussions were furthered after American law schools at Cornell University and Stanford University announced changes to their grading schemes in light of the pandemic. 

In the days leading up to the decision, two petitions circulated on U of T Law’s student Facebook groups outlining the merits and drawbacks of different grading schemes. One petition advocated for the cancellation of remaining final exams and essays, or alternatively a mandatory credit/no credit system.

The other petition advocated for the adoption of a mandatory credit/no credit system. Collectively, these petitions received approximately 330 signatures from students across various years. Nonetheless, students had concerns about this system, and Students’ Law Society (SLS) representatives posted anonymous surveys for students to share them. Faculty members have also shared their perspectives on this issue.

The U of T Faculty of Law was the first law school in Ontario to implement this change amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Career Development Office at U of T Law assured the student body in an email that they would be reaching out to employers in the legal community to inform them of the Faculty’s changes. 

U of T Law’s SLS has advocated for a uniform approach to grading in Canadian law schools. SLS President Morgan Watkins (3L) indicated that while there had been discussion about grading among law student bodies across Ontario, there was no clear consensus as to how to move forward as of March 20.

Since then, a number of law schools across the country have changed the grading scheme for winter term courses and full-year courses.

Law schools who have also moved JD grading to a mandatory pass/fail scheme include York University’s Osgoode Hall, Western University, University of Windsor, and University of Alberta.

JD students at Queen’s University’s Faculty of Law are given the pass/fail option, to be chosen after viewing grades.

The University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law has given JD students the option to choose a Credit/D/Fail standing upon seeing grades.

At the University of Ottawa’s Common Law Section, 1Ls can choose to either write or opt out of exams on a course-by-course basis if they have existing graded coursework. In either case, 1Ls there will be able to view grades and choose pass/fail grade notations on a course-by-course basis. 2Ls and 3Ls at the University of Ottawa can choose to receive blanket pass/fail grading, ahead of exams.


In an earlier edition of this article, published online on Issuu on March 31, 2020, Ultra Vires reported that University of British Columbia’s Allard School of Law is proceeding with grading as-is and the University of Ottawa introduced changes for first-year students, with an optional course-by-course selection for pass/fail and an optional blanket pass/fail for upper year students.

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