Classify via national exam

August 7, 2008

I disagree with Frank Furedi's conclusion that comparability of degrees is incompatible with "a pluralistic academic environment" ("A first-class fiasco", 31 July).

The problem of comparing first degrees between one university and another would disappear if they were dependent solely on national exams. This need not lead to functional homogeneity. If the syllabuses for the national exams were published only at the beginning of the final academic year, universities would be free to teach whatever they liked in the preceding years.

Exams shouldn't be thought of as testing three or four years' study (how can a three-hour exam test three years?): good exams just tell you which students are likely to be better than others at the subject. The classification of degrees could be done proportionately. So the top 10 per cent get a first. A model for the style of such exams could be the CAPES or Agregation exams in France.

Michael Bulley, Chalon-sur-Saone, France.

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