University grading errors are more common than you might think

Make sure you double and triple check your final grade. Even universities can make mistakes, as graduate Victoria Nightingale found

August 3 2017
University results

Like most students, I anticipated results day this year with nerves, dread and an endless reel of possible scenarios in my mind. No matter how well your exams go, there will always be that doubt that maybe they didn’t quite go to plan. 

These days, it couldn’t be easier to receive your results. All you need is wi-fi, a device and your login details. In many ways, this is fantastic, especially if you’ve studied abroad, but it also means that receiving your results is now more impersonal than ever. No human contact needed.

I received my results for my Japanese studies and Korean studies degree from a university in London just as I was leaving work. I clicked on the email as I was leaving my desk, and found that I had completed my degree but to my devastation I would be graduating with a 2:2, not the 2:1 I had hoped for. I was surprised, to say the least.

During my final year I had worked really hard. My essays had been a mix of firsts and 2:1s. My exams had also gone well and I was sure I hadn’t dropped below a 2:1. But when I read my results I felt like I’d let myself down. My automatic assumption was that I must have flunked my exams and that had brought my grades down. My emotions got the better of me and I didn’t check the breakdown of my grades. I was disappointed and couldn’t face further disappointment.

It was only two weeks later, after being urged by my family, that I decided to check my results in full. To my surprise my exam results were good, in fact much better than I had anticipated. However half of my essay results, a huge chunk of my final-year grade, were missing, with the results “NR” (not recorded). I realised that my grade had been calculated as if I had never done those essays, and that had brought it down. 

Why you should make friends with admin staff

My initial thought was that my essays had been rejected, or for some reason had been wiped off the system. However, after checking my results for these essays, they were still there. Then I checked my email, searching for any mention of my essays being rejected and found nothing.

I immediately contacted my lecturers and the relevant faculty, and waited anxiously for a response. My lecturers were the first to respond. They informed me that there were no problems with my essays, and they were confused as to what had happened. I then realised that it must be a technical glitch. There were no problems with my essays, they were just missing from my results.

After several emails, the faculty confirmed my essay marks and arranged for my exam results to be amended. Soon afterwards I was sent an email informing me that my results had been changed and could now be seen on the online portal. I clicked through, and the results had been altered but still my overall grade showed as 2:2. After emailing again to confirm that this was my final result, I was told that I had received a 2:1.

Why I was surprised by this whole admin fiasco, I’m not exactly sure. My university is brilliant and the teaching is excellent but I have had problems with admin. Before I joined, it failed to send me any details on enrolment or how to set up my email account and in my third year I wasn’t able to access lecture materials for five weeks because I hadn’t been enrolled on my courses. Every time I’ve had to sort out any admin problems, it’s been quite stressful. 

Worryingly I am not the only one and it is not just my university where this has happened. My boyfriend, who graduated from another London university a few years ago, had a similar experience. On results day he was not even sent his results, and he was left to demand them from his institution. They did of course send them to him eventually but only as the grades, with no final calculated result. He had to work out his grade for himself, and found that he had received a first.

The moral of the story is check, check, check your results because your university may have got it wrong. Who knows how many degrees might have been wrongly recorded owing to admin errors? But perhaps what is most saddening is the message this sends to students. If anyone checked they would have noticed the error, and it makes me wonder if universities see students as just cogs in a machine.

Victoria Nightingale is a recent Japanese studies and Korean studies graduate from Soas, University of London.

Read more: How to deal with stress over exam results

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