Monday, August 18, 2008

University standards under threat - maybe?

Geoffrey Alderman: University standards under threat | Comment is free | "But the externals were not further involved. Instead, as a result of the strange remarking exercise, a number of students were moved from a straight fail to a borderline position, permitting them to be deemed to have passed if marks for other subjects were high enough. The net result was that students whom professor Buckland and his co-examiner had failed, and whose failures had been endorsed first by the external examiner and then by the board of examiners, were told that they had passed."
Interesting case which reached an employment tribunal after Professor Buckland resigned in protest at the way this regrading had taken place. One thing I hate is for students I've worked with to fail for reasons which are trivial (submitting work in the wrong format, missing the deadline by minutes etc)... but one thing I really, really hate is to see students pass whose work should not represent the quality of the course teaching were it allowed to pass. Limping students over the line who don't deserve to get over the line does them no favours in the long run and does institutions no favours either. I cringe at instructions in marking guides which say 'mark generously' (which I've come across in the past myself). I understand why it's being said... but I cringe nevertheless at the implication that some how the balance needs to be tipped in the favour of the 'customer' and less in favour of academic credibility...

Can universities really claim to be able to uphold their own standards any more? Tip of the iceberg or mountain out of molehill?

Interesting times ahead...


  1. Definitely the tip of the iceberg. Unless institutions put their collective feet down, degrees are going to go the way of A-levels.

  2. I do hope not, Chris. I wonder whether it's the system of Universities having control over marking which is really the issue... or the whole 'student as customer' factor where the customer is always right (unless they're so far off the mark they'd never be able to prove they'd been hard done by!)

  3. I quite agree with what you have said and have made this quite clear by writing to the Times Higher Education Supplement which has carried a recent article about it. Many thanks.


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