Assessing anonymous marks

March 26, 1999

Andrew Pakes makes a very confused case for anonymous marking and fails to consider the unfortunate consequences.

As evidence of discrimination, he cites high failure rates of Asian students, more men than women getting good degrees and lower performance by black students. He suggests that all we have to do is introduce anonymous marking to remove discrimination.

Many universities introduced anonymous marking four or five years ago. If Pakes is correct, there will have been a change - previously detectable differences between the performance of these groups should have disappeared. Have there been any studies to see if this is the case?

Perhaps variations in performance are determined by the expectations and attitudes of the society in which the students grew up. Changing the method of marking will not improve race relations or women's career prospects. But this campaign allows us to think we are making progress.

It is not progress. Anonymous marking destroys a key element of the university experience: engagement with lecturers. Less feedback means less support for students who are having problems and less discussion of interesting research themes in an exam answer by a good student.

The NUS should be aware of the benefits of professional teacher-student relationships, which will be diminished further if this campaign succeeds. Call a halt to the campaign, do the research, and rethink.

David Walker Park Road Loughborough

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