Damaged tracks of Leeds music student's tears

University criticised for ‘unreasonable’ stance over data-transfer error

July 18, 2013

In these days of £9,000 tuition fees, universities are supposed to be falling over themselves to meet the needs of “students as consumers”. But things look rather different to the University of Leeds undergraduate whose hopes of a first-class degree were dashed because academics could not play half the tracks on a CD bearing his music assignment.

Those were the grounds on which Joseph Rowe, who graduates this summer from Leeds’ BA in music course, was given a zero for a second-year music technology module.

When allowed to check for himself, he discovered that the biro he had used to hastily write the project details on the disc had pressed through and damaged the playing side. Although three of the six tracks still played, Mr Rowe was told that the rules permitted neither resubmission nor the marking of the undamaged ones.

Mr Rowe described this as “way too harsh” since it disregarded “all the hours of effort I put into the project on the basis of the quality of the tangible object I used to present it”.

He said he had used a biro because he did not have a CD marker to hand and the submission deadline was looming. After the students’ union warned him that an appeal would be unlikely to succeed, he let the matter drop.

However, using Leeds’ online marking calculator at the end of his degree, Mr Rowe discovered that if he had not made his “stupid” mistake, he would in all likelihood have earned a first-class degree.

He has decided not to appeal because doing so would require him to refuse his current degree and forgo a graduation ceremony.

“I’ve been stressed about it for a long time and I just want to move on,” he said. However, he wanted to publicise his case to prevent others suffering the same fate.

His step-grandfather, John Thompson, a regular contributor to policy analyses by the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “In professional life, glitches in data transfer are common, but in my experience, people do not act like this. In the university bubble, such unreasonable behaviour seems to be accepted.”

Leeds declined to comment.


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