First things first

July 14, 2000

The story "V-c's plea for firsts" (THES, June 30) implies I urged our external examiners to award more high grades to our students. This is completely untrue. Our externals need no advice from me: it is their advice to us that I sought and value.

A number of other important points were also omitted:

* We are undertaking one of our regular quality reviews, in the light of new information, and partly at the suggestion of some of our externals

* Comparison of results among universities is an explicit expectation of externals in our published guidelines, that is. "1. The purpose of the university's external examining system is:... (d) to ensure comparability of standards with other similar institutions..."

* Our externals all report to me, and not to our exam committees; it is therefore natural that I should write to them on behalf of the institution.

R. U. Cooke Vice-chancellor, University of York

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