This is the first semester we’re using A, B, C, D and even E (and F for fail) as grades in Norway, and the national guidelines for what the grades are supposed to mean are now available, even in English, if you scroll to the bottom. There’s a more specific description available for technological subjects (Norwegian only) which is striking in its low expectations: to get a D (which 20% of the students are supposed to be awarded, strictly speaking) requires the following: “Lacking overview of the most important parts of the curriculum. Can’t use knowledge independently.” Should a person who hasn’t even got a vague notion of the most important parts of the curriculum really be passing at all? The description for health and social subjects (nursing, medicine, social workers and so on) is terrifying: you pass with a D if you show “limited knowledge” and can “to a certain degree use knowledge safely in patient situations.”
Probably every university’s corridors sometimes hear the whispered horror of that story of the professor who felt sorry for the candidate and gave him or her a pass despite having doubts. The next year, the candidate was the professor’s daughter’s English teacher (or doctor to scare you even more).