Fiddling while education burns 3

July 9, 2004

We have just survived exam time again. Lecturers waded through mountains of scripts, wielding their red pens in despair or, occasionally, delight. But, for them, grading exams and assignments is no longer a simple matter of awarding marks for answers given, adding them up and submitting the totals.

This is only the beginning, not the end, of the arcane, academic assessment process that is the norm in universities today.

Before the official exam boards, a whole series of processes take place to ensure that students at the lower end of the attainment range "are not disadvantaged".

Modules with pass rates or grade means that are considered too low can have the marks scaled, for instance. Or course leaders may be asked to reconsider favourably all borderline marks. By the time the final exam boards come round, the results have been homogenised and harmonised or hacked and hijacked, depending on your point of view.

This is the Nero time of year. It's when lots of fiddling goes on and education burns.

Many universities are no longer educational establishments enshrining high academic standards. They are degree factories, whose raison d'etre is to churn out as many graduates as possible, and whose rules ensure that being idle or stupid won't stop you from getting a degree.

Annette Marshall
Teesside University

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