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Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on the review of examination results of students other than Graduate Students: Notice

23 October 2000

The Council have considered the remarks made at the Discussion of this Report on 4 July 2000 (see Reporter, 1999-2000, p. 956).

The Council are pleased to note that each of the speakers supported the principal recommendation of the Report, namely the introduction of a formal review procedure for undergraduate and similar examinations. The main concerns expressed by the speakers related to the treatment of candidates who for good cause have had to miss, or take under significant impediment, part of an examination. The proposals contained in the Report will allow a candidate who has been absent from a relatively small part of an examination to be classed on the basis of his or her performance in the remainder of the examination; but as Dr Laming pointed out they will not assist a candidate who has had to miss half an examination. The Council and the General Board are firmly of the view that it would not be satisfactory to base the outcome of an examination at this University on a candidate's performance in only half an examination. Much of a candidate's written work during the year is likely to have been prepared for College supervisions, and termly reports by Supervisors are an insufficient basis to augment, for the purpose of awarding classified honours, the results obtained by a candidate under examination conditions.

Dr Laming suggested that, in a case where the Applications Committee had agreed that it would be proper for a candidate to be classed on the basis of his or her performance in less than the whole examination, it should be for the Committee rather than the Examiners to determine the class to be awarded, having regard to the marks awarded by the Examiners for each paper. Such a procedure would indeed be feasible for those examinations where the criteria for classification are entirely numerical and formulaic; but there are some examinations where, under present marking and classification conventions, it would be difficult for a body other than the Examiners to exercise the necessary judgement. The Council remain of the view that, at least for the present, the decision on the award of a class should be taken by Examiners rather than by the Applications Committee.

Mr Blaney asked whether applications for allowances might be submitted by candidates direct to the Applications Committee. Applications for allowances (for example the allowance of an examination, or leave to degrade) are of a very different nature to complaints about the conduct of examinations which, under the proposed regulations, may be submitted without reference to a Tutor. Applications for allowances are closely related to the question of residence in later years, and to the future courses which the student concerned might take, and these are matters which are primarily the responsibility of the College as admitting authority. In the Council's view it would not be satisfactory for such applications to be made other than through the appropriate College authorities.

Mr Blaney suggested that the examination outcome 'Declared to have deserved honours' (DDH) was unsatisfactory. The Council wish to make clear that DDH constitutes in every sense the award of honours (as also does the allowance of a Tripos Examination by the Applications Committee). This position is set out explicitly in the following terms in Regulation 1 for the B.A. Degree by honours (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 407):

A candidate shall obtain honours in an Honours Examination by the inclusion of his or her name in one of the classes, or under the heading 'Declared to have deserved honours', in the class-list of that examination, or by being allowed the examination by the Council…

Regulation 4 for allowances to candidates for examinations (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 206) provides that when the Council allow a candidate an examination which is an Honours Examination, such a candidate shall thereby be deemed to have obtained honours therein. It appears to the Council that the words 'be deemed to' should be deleted from this regulation in order to clarify the position and bring the regulation into line with Regulation 1 for the B.A. Degree. They have accordingly agreed, as a separate matter, to bring forward a Grace to this effect (see Grace 4, p. 127).

The Council consider that it is important to proceed with the recommendations of the Report without further delay. They have already indicated their intention that the new arrangements, if approved, will be reviewed after three years. They have accordingly agreed to submit a Grace (Grace 5, p. 128) for the approval of the recommendations in this Report.

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Cambridge University Reporter, 25 October 2000