Students waved through final lap

April 14, 2006

Keele University has privately admitted that scores of students could graduate this summer with degree classifications that they do not deserve under plans to beat the assessment boycott, writes Phil Baty.

In a set of contingency plans designed to counter the assessment boycott by the Association of University Teachers, Keele's senate last week agreed to allow final-year students to graduate as long as they had completed about two thirds of their final year.

The senate will invoke an obscure part of the constitution that allows students to graduate under exceptional circumstances if they have obtained at least 75 of the 120 final-year credits they would normally be expected to achieve.

This is the equivalent of obtaining a degree despite dropping up to three final-year exam papers.

If the dispute allows for final exams to take place, and if marks are returned after a student has graduated, subsequent reclassification of a degree "will only be done to the advantage of the student", in other words, the classification cannot be lowered.

Keele insists that its emergency measures will not lower standards. But a document detailing the plans states: "Out of a cohort of 1,400 students to graduate this year, 5 per cent - 70 students - might attain a higher classification of degree than they would have been awarded had they been assessed on the full 120 credits."

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the AUT, said: "Universities would be better off talking to us to resolve the assessment boycott rather than trying to devise half-baked ideas that may make our universities a laughing stock."

A Keele spokesman said: "Senate has recognised that the AUT action could disadvantage students and voted heavily in favour of using existing regulations."

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