In my last couple of years working at The Open University, I was conscious of a rise in expressions of disappointment from students about what they considered to be a low grade in an assignment (“Pressure rises to ‘give high marks’ ”, News, 23 October). The students believed that the large amount of time and effort they had invested in their essays should result in a high mark.
Talking to them about what had been looked for in the assignment, discussing what grades were for, and suggesting that in the future they might put themselves in the place of their tutor and anticipate what feedback and score would be given usually prevented a formal appeal. And perhaps a bit of learning also took place in that discussion.
At the back of my mind, however, I have always remembered what a professor told me and a group of nervous freshers embarking on a music degree at Durham University in 1965: “You won’t get a first-class degree through hard work alone; you will need an extra spark.” At the time, there had been four first-class degrees in the subject since the Second World War.
Cornsay, County Durham