Not waving

May 5, 2006

I was disappointed to read the letter from a group of academics from Keele University questioning a series of decisions taken by the university senate (April 28).

The decisions were made after careful consideration of the options and were approved by a large majority.

Keele was obliged to take action early because of its timetable for final examinations and graduation, which starts earlier than at many other universities. Withdrawal from examinations and assessment was deliberately targeted at students, who have no part to play in the national dispute. We feel strongly that the university has a duty to ensure that the impact on students should be minimised while ensuring that academic standards are preserved.

The decision to allow final-year students to graduate so long as they have completed two thirds of their final year is based on ordinances that have been in place in our constitution for many years. If the university had taken no action, but assessments had been disrupted, our students would have had the right to invoke the ordinances in any event. Senate simply confirmed the application of these existing ordinances to the particular case of industrial action.

Senate made it quite clear that the application of the ordinances to large numbers of students would come into effect only in extreme circumstances outside the control of the student. Contrary to the claims of your correspondents, students will not be "waved through". The ordinances allow for some students to graduate with provisional degrees - either classified or unclassified - with the final result confirmed when all results are available. Even with a provisional classification, examination boards will make a final judgment, as is always the case.

The proposals put to senate had the full support of student representatives. Subsequently, Keele Student Union has formally and publicly opposed the Association of University Teachers' boycott of examinations and assessments.

We sincerely hope these contingency plans agreed by senate prove to be unnecessary. Our final examination timetable is in full swing with 97 per cent of the papers set and only 48 out of 1,400 final-year undergraduates facing some disruption.

Janet Finch Vice-chancellor, Keele University

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