Bristol blunder leads to grade change

July 4, 2003

It was a case of now you see them, now you don't, when Bristol University posted then promptly removed about 100 degree results, warning students that an administrative blunder meant their degree classifications could change, writes Phil Baty.

The entire Bristol final-year geography BSc class saw their final results removed within three hours of them being posted on June 18. Bemused students had to wait until the next day for an explanation.

On June 24, after an agonising six-day wait, Bristol released the correct results. To the university's partial relief, only six students had had their degree classifications changed.

The university could not confirm this week how many of the six students had had their degree classifications downgraded. It issued an "unreserved apology" to all the students for the "distress caused".

Martyn Tranter, chairman of Bristol's exam board, explained in an email to the class on June 19 that a mistake had been made in transcribing the students' year-two marks, which had been carried forward to count towards their final degree classifications.

He said in the email: "You should be aware that the likely outcome is that some degree classes may be different from those on the withdrawn provisional list.

"I recognise that this will be very distressing for those whose degree is a class lower. I deeply regret the uncertainty and anxiety that has been caused."

An internal investigation found that two sets of marks taken from year two were wrongly added to the year-three totals as a result of a mistake with a computer spreadsheet. No re-marking was involved.

The university has apologised officially and unreservedly to all the students affected.

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