Falling standards? (1)

November 26, 2004

We disagree with Luton vice-chancellor Les Ebdon's assertion that Luton University would not compromise its academic standards ("Caught in vicious cycle of declining standards", November 19).

When we joined Luton in the early Nineties, students were expected to pass all modules in an academic year before progressing to the next, and failures were not routinely condoned. This set high standards and maintained staff, student and employer confidence. As university numbers fell, such "barriers to progression" were removed. Failure to pass assessments became widely "compensated" and students "progressed" to mixed diets of modules at differing academic levels.

Ebdon also claims that "our pass-fail grade has not changed". One of Luton's strangest decisions was to change its fail grade by abolishing both the "marginal fail" and the grade awarded for weakest work in the marking scheme, thus making it harder for staff to fail students.

We hope this loss of memory is Ebdon's alone, but we fear it is widespread among university managers.

Pat Gray and Ian Fribbance
Former course leaders
Luton University

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