Skip to main contentCambridge University Reporter

No 6430

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Vol cxlvi No 35

pp. 634–677

Report of Discussion

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Discussion was held in the Senate-House. Professor Dame Ann Dowling was presiding, with the Registrary’s deputy, the Deputy Senior Proctor, the Junior Pro-Proctor, and fifty other persons present.

The following Reports were discussed:

Report of the Council, dated 16 May 2016, on the financial position and budget of the University, recommending allocations from the Chest for 2016–17 (Reporter, 6426, 2015–16, p. 525).

Dr S. J. Cowley (Faculty of Mathematics):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report raises the question of whether the distinction between Chest and non-Chest income is helpful. I do not have an answer, but it does seem wise to look at the University’s finances as a whole rather than in individual financial silos. As well as outside funding, the University is dependent on many interconnecting ‘internal’ activities such as Cambridge Assessment and, in the future, North West Cambridge (NWC). The annual transfer from Cambridge Assessment is acknowledged in the Report and Appendices, but there is nothing meaningful on NWC. Yet, there is a substantial NWC potential over-run approaching nine figures, and even if NWC does not affect next year’s allocations, a holistic reference might have made it into the Report. However, it seems that at present the less said about NWC the better.

The Report mentions other ambitious capital projects, and notes that:

‘the Council considers that the University may need to review its ability – and willingness – to commit central funds over and above current levels if the strategic priorities as articulated by the Schools and NSIs are to be delivered’.

No doubt capital expenditure is important if the University ‘is to continue to recruit and retain the best staff’. However, capital projects need to be well managed, and it is not just NWC where there are cost over-runs, but you would not pick that up from this Report. Again, it seems the less said about that the better.

Further, while there is much concern, over the Referendum, the Green/White Paper, the Nurse Review, etc., there is relatively little said about cost control, other than by assuming a 1% increase in Chest allocation for 2016–17 over 2015–16 and for each year thereafter; and the old chesnut that ‘the pay award assumed in the planning guidance was 1% per year during the planning period’. HE pay has fallen by over 10% in real terms in the last six years. It will fall further behind if increases are restricted to 1% in the future; might not this have an impact on the ability to recruit and retain the best staff?

The University’s mission, as Graced on 14 November 2001, includes ‘recognition and reward of the University’s staff as its greatest asset’ as a core value. Indeed, the HR webpages are littered with the statement that staff are the University’s ‘greatest asset’ (although at a meeting last week a PVC did concede that such statements might be puffed a little). Surely at some point the issue of pay needs to be addressed, or is the University going to continue to favour the select few with large market-pay awards, increments, and bonuses? If the only way to get a cost-of-living increase is through promotion, then there is going to be an even greater incentive for game playing, and for academics to concentrate on research at the expense of teaching. The odd teaching prize does not compensate for a greater than 10% fall in living standards. Indeed, it is already becoming increasingly difficult to find competent undergraduate supervisors in Mathematics, especially for third-year courses, as UTOs decline to supervise and even Ph.D. students find more lucrative sources of income. There is plenty of hand ringing by the central bodies about teaching, but little meaningful action.

I realize that across-the-board increases in pay are not cheap. However, I gather that a number of pay-scale steps have been abolished at the bottom of the post-doc grade. If outside funders can pay for this increase, might the University consider adopting a similar, if more radical, approach? For instance, each year remove the bottom step from each grade, and add an additional step at the top of each grade. Over five years, this should eliminate the real-terms erosion of staff salaries in a fair and equitable manner.

I expect such a suggestion to be dismissed by the Director of the Finance Division and the PVC for Planning and Resources as financially unattainable. However, it is a matter of priorities. If the University can find money for the £100m or so NWC over-run, or £150m for biomedical facilities (although I gather that figure may have also over-run), why can it not find money for staff salaries? What about improved cost control when it comes to capital projects? And are there any other places where there might be better cost control?

The Report starts by noting that ‘information on trends in staff and student numbers, research, and expenditure patterns is provided in the usual way in Appendices 1–4’. Appendices 1 and 2 are interesting reading. Over ten years the numbers of:

undergraduates have increased by 1%;

postgraduates have increased by 7%;

academic staff have increased by 9%;

assistant staff have increased by 19%;

academic-related staff have increased by 57% (including an 87% increase in academic-related administrative staff);

research staff and postdocs have increased by 60%.

Is it clear that all of these increases are proportionate, even given the fact that the government and others have significantly increased the administrative burdens on the University? Is the resulting increased tick boxing strictly necessary?

Finally, let me try and pre-empt a reference to Appendix 4. There it is noted that over a six-year period, the percentage of total expenditure on Schools and other academic institutions is reasonably constant at 67%–69% (which, at first sight, seems to be at variance with some of the above figures). However, the Schools and other academic institutions’ figures include administrative staff in Schools, etc., and the central bodies have been devolving administration downwards (reflected in a 188% increase in academic-related administrative staff in Schools and academic institutions). Might I suggest that Appendix 4 is restated so that it is clear what the percentages are on direct academic spend, direct administrative spend, and other activities. At present, the figures are far from transparent.

Professor D. J. Maskell (Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Budget Report before you today is the result of a lengthy and complex Planning Round process and much discussion with Schools and Non-School Institutions. It is presented at a time of major change in the Higher Education legislative framework, and we wait to see the extent to which the new administrative structures that stem from the legislation will affect funding for teaching and research.

This year’s financial forecasts show deterioration in the position of the Chest when compared with prior year forecasts, such that a Chest deficit is forecast over the planning period. This deterioration is dependent mainly on reduced, more realistic aggregate fee income projections from the Schools, and reduced predicted research overheads to the Chest. The University is in a strong position to manage short-term, temporary deficits, but must take steps now to improve financial sustainability over the medium- to long-term.

A key part of the strategy to improve the University’s financial sustainability will be to increase income. An important part of this needs to be an assessment, in close collaboration with the Colleges, of the headroom available for increasing overall student fee income into the University. Another key element of this will be to ensure that the right mechanisms and incentives are in place to encourage the academic community to take steps to improve income generation from industry, from research funders, and from other government sources, with a view to moving nearer to covering the overall full economic cost of the research carried out. To this end the Resource Management Committee is overseeing a review of the Resource Allocation Model (RAM), considering its purpose and the degree to which it, or a replacement model, can be used to support the business of actual resource allocation. Resource allocation is currently based on an overall percentage uplift on the previous year’s allocation (which has been 1% for several years) allied to bids for extra allocation for specific new needs. This process is largely divorced from the information provided by the RAM. We need to understand this information better and use it to inform a more sophisticated allocations process that supports new strategic developments and longer-term planning. The Planning and Resources Committee is thus re-considering the structure and mechanics of the University’s Planning Round with the aim of enhancing targeted, strategic allocations over a longer time-period. In each case, the distinction between Chest and non-Chest income will be subject to scrutiny. It is essential that all sources of income are put to good use in supporting academic strategies. This is particularly pertinent at a time when Schools reported at the end of Financial Year 2014–15 unrestricted Chest and non-Chest reserves totalling £193m.

Notwithstanding the forecast Chest deficit, it is important to ensure that academic growth does not stall. An across-the-board cut in allocations to bring the budget back into balance is not the right answer. To this end allocations to Schools in 2016– 17 will increase above the 1% baseline. However, over the next few years it will be crucial that Schools find efficiencies and deploy their resources strategically to support excellence in teaching and research.

Excellent core academic activity, in a University as complex as ours, requires excellent administrative support. Cutting administrative budgets in the absence of benchmarking evidence about the appropriate size and shape of support required is not the answer to balancing the Chest. The benchmarking process1 that has just started should provide excellent data on which to decide whether our administrative structures are too big or too small, and whether we can cut some of them or indeed invest in others to facilitate academic excellence with increased earning power. In this budget an increase is forecast for the Non-School Institutions, but this is not across the board. Most of the increase is for the UIS and CUDAR. This investment should be viewed as support for the academic activity of the University. The increase to the UIS, at just under 9%, is mostly made up of an allocation to support the High Performance Computing Service, which is coming under pressure due to altered funding mechanisms amongst our research funders. This is a core function to support considerable academic activity. Notwithstanding this clear need, the allocation will be subject to an approved business case that makes clear how the longer-term future of the facility can be funded. The increase for CUDAR, including Cambridge in America, is of the order of 25%. This significant increase is a continuation of the policy, agreed by Council, to effect a step change in our ability to access philanthropic funding. This must therefore be seen as an investment in the University’s future and its ability to deliver diversified income streams and resources that will directly benefit the academic community. The return on this investment will be kept under close review.

Investment in physical infrastructure must continue to be a critical component of the University’s spending, to provide modern buildings that are fit for purpose, to reduce maintenance costs, to hit our carbon usage targets, and to enable continued growth of the University. Without investment in buildings and facilities, the University puts at risk the quality of its teaching and research, and ultimately its reputation and ability to recruit the best academic staff. It must be noted, however, that the scale of investment required is very considerable. Average expenditure over the next decade is anticipated to be well over £100m per annum and, looking further ahead, expenditure of at least £2bn is anticipated in order to redevelop the Biocentrum and relocate the Department of Engineering to West Cambridge. The funding challenge that this poses cannot be stressed strongly enough. The Capital Fund is forecast to breach the agreed overdraft limit by some margin over the next ten years. Philanthropy, and government funding through schemes such as RPIF,2 will be a crucial part of the funding strategy, but are unlikely to meet the resourcing gap. We must consider alternative funding modes, but difficult decisions may need to be taken and the University may need to consider its capacity – and willingness – to invest more in capital, or to agree to curtail the programme of capital investment and to focus on those projects that Schools identify as essential to delivering strategic plans.

Finally, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the work of colleagues across the UAS in preparing the data and projections that inform this Report, which I commend to the Regent House.


  • 1See paragraph 18 of the Report

  • 2The Research Partnership Investment Fund, currently operated by HEFCE

Professor G. R. Evans (Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Council must have approved this Report for publication on 16 May, the morning when the White Paper Success as a Knowledge Economy was published. It is a pity that they did not add a footnote. With the Higher Education and Research Bill whose publication followed it a few days later, it put seriously out of date much of the higher education policy scene-setting on ‘major upheaval in the external environment’ as depicted in this Report.

The Report notes that the Annual Grant letter to HEFCE was delayed to March this year, but of course of far more importance to the University’s long-term planning will be the abolition of HEFCE and its replacement by a genetically modifed offspring of HEFCE and OFFA, which is to be called the Office for Students. Research funding is to pass to another new body, UK Research and Innovation, within which the Research Councils will become mere ‘committees’ and infrastructure funding will be disbursed by a new entity to be called Research England.

So there are many features of the proposed legislation affecting future public funding and therefore, potentially, the assumptions about ‘allocations’ made in this annual Report to the University. That is important in the light of the question raised in the Report as to whether ‘the distinction between Chest and non-Chest income’ continues to be ‘helpful’. There has long been a mismatch between annual ‘allocations’ and the outcomes reported each December but this hardly seems the moment to make internal changes when the external funding structures are so radically to be altered.

There is a paragraph on ‘strategic research reviews’. These are to try to ensure that the University is able ‘to maintain or increase its share of mainstream QR funding, which currently makes up 16.5% of the University’s central funding’. That, of course, is HEFCE funding and the decision-making principles of the future Research England component of UKRI which will take over HEFCE’s research-funding tasks cannot yet be guessed at. They will await a letter from the Secretary of State giving directions. There is a promise to maintain dual funding but no indication about how state funding is to be divided between infrastructure and project funding within UKRI.

Chest income currently coming from HEFCE forms a very high proportion in the tables attached to this Report but the infrastructure part of UKRI’s future disbursement through Research England will be separate from any teaching funding coming through the Office for Students. The new legislation seems not to be aware that libraries and laboratories are needed for both teaching and research and the final abolition of the old block grant will surely make maintaining them a puzzle for all research-intensive universities.

A final note on the difficulty of keeping up with events. This Report is upbeat about the benefits of connections with AstraZeneca and other entities in ‘maximizing engagement with the commercial sector’. The Times of 30 May 2016 carried an article claiming that in Cambridge ‘infrastructure such as transport is not keeping pace with development of industry, much of it based around Cambridge’s science parks’. The embarrassments about progress with North West Cambridge, which are the subject of another Report to be discussed today, have not been factored into this.

Report of the Council, dated 16 May 2016, on revised governance arrangements for the development of the West and North West Cambridge sites (Reporter, 6426, 2015–16, p. 545).

Dr D. R. de Lacey (Faculty of Divinity):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak today as a member of the Senate and a former Regent, but also as an elected member of South Cambridgeshire District Council; about half of the North West Cambridge development lies within my Ward.

In general I agree with the proposed changes in the governance of the project. It does, however, strike me as strange that in reducing ‘the number of members [of the Board] who must also be members of the Regent House from five to two’, it is proposed ‘to reduce the number of such members required to be present for a meeting to be quorate from two to one’ (paragraph 3b). The qualifications of the two members could not be more different: one is likely to be the individual most involved in the development (if the Pro-Vice-Chancellor in question is worth his salt) and the other is to be specifically an independent outsider, at least as far as senior leadership and management are concerned. Surely both points of view should be represented if the Board is to do its business with due diligence? This proposal comes directly from the Audit Group’s second Report (paragraph 29), but there is no defence there at all for the reduction from two to one for quoracy. The Council should demand one before approving this proposal.

The Audit Group was concerned, exclusively, with the cost over-runs of the project so far, and an ‘assessment of the governance and delivery arrangements’ (paragraph 3 of their second Report). But governance must surely also concern planning for the community we intend to create. The University has been remarkably silent on the majority of governance issues which will arise. Yes, there are a number of Groups, Focus Groups, and Forums working on various bits and pieces, but without coherence and without the power to decide basic issues. I am grateful for the offer of a meeting with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor to discuss some of these; for if we are not, a few years hence, to be obliged to put in place another Audit Group to look at another failure in governance we need to begin planning in this area now.

Dr S. J. Cowley: (Faculty of Mathematics):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, so far in the North West Cambridge (NWC) over-run saga, there has been

a short announcement by the Council dated 21 October 2015 that ‘potential cost over-runs were forecast for the project which breached certain of the financial parameters set by the University’;

a Discussion on 3 November 2015, to which the Council has not seen fit to respond;

an announcement on 11 April 2016 increasing the Peak Borrowing Requirement (PBR) for Phase 1 of the North West Cambridge development from £320m to £396m;

two reports by an Audit Group that the Council have received, endorsed and approved, but made little further comment on; and

this Report.

This is a rather minimal response given the size of the potential over-runs, and is in stark contrast to the more transparent and rigorous manner in which the Council dealt with the CAPSA fiasco in 2000–02.

The original PBR for NWC in the Report of 22 October 2012 was £250m. By Grace 1 of 29 October 2014 the Regent House approved an increase in the PBR to £311m (with short-term flexibility to £320m), of which £32.6m was because of ‘scope transfer’. Then, in the announcement (not even a Notice) of 11 April 2016, the Council approved an increase in the PBR from £320m to £396m (note the finesse of the ‘short term flexibility’ sum of £9m, but then what is £9m). Since no details have been given since the first Audit Group report of the potential over-run (which according to Appendix 2 of the first report seemed to mirror the PBR), the interested reader is left to use the PBR as a proxy for building costs. After accounting for the £32.6m ‘scope transfer’, the PBR has risen in less than four years from £250m to £363m, an increase of £113m or 45%. This dwarfs the CAPSA fiasco by at least an order of magnitude. Yet, the Council has not seen fit to respond to the Discussion of the first report, nor call a Discussion on the second report; it did not even Grace the £76m (or should that be £85m) increase in the PBR.

As far as I can ascertain, nobody has been called to account. In the first Discussion of 3 November 2015 a member of the Council stated that the first ‘Audit/Working Group’s report is clear that no fault attaches to individuals’, while a PVC stated ‘these reports are clear that there is no individual blame to be apportioned for this projected cost over-run’. However, this is another finesse.

First, as is stated in the introduction to the PwC report (my emphasis): ‘PwC was engaged to carry out a factual analysis of the projected cost over-runs and to investigate issues in the cost management and reporting on the project’. PwC were not asked to apportion blame; indeed I would have been surprised if PwC had done so given that they could have been sued.

Second, there is a very important difference between ‘no fault attaches to individuals’, and what is actually stated in the report that ‘first and foremost, it is important to emphasize that no single factor or individual is responsible for the projected over-runs’. The important word to my mind here is ‘single’; might more than one individual be responsible?

The PwC report makes clear that a number of persons failed in their duties. Given the size of the potential over-run, surely there have to be consequences, otherwise, what is there to stop history repeating itself? However, banks can be big enough not to fail, and in Cambridge it seems that you can be senior enough, and a ‘key member of the … team’, not to be responsible. The Council has dropped the ball. How different from CAPSA.

The then Registrary: ‘I regret very much that on this occasion the service provided through the Central Administration has not matched our expectations, or those of the University more generally’, and ‘Reflecting on the events leading to the go-live decision and on my role in them, it is clear to me that there were things which I could and perhaps should have done differently. I regret that, and I am sorry that it should be so.’

Or the then Treasurer: ‘I accept responsibility for my own … contribution to the mismanagement of the design and implementation of the University’s financial system.’

Or even the then Council: ‘The Council deeply regrets that it has failed in some respects in these matters …’.

I had my differences with the then Registrary and Treasurer, but they were decent people. In contrast, only one person apologized in November, and that was myself (as a member of the Council from 2007–14). Is no-one culpable for a potential £113m over-run?

In attempting to rectify the mess, the second report has made a number of recommendations. Many are commendable, e.g. as regards the business case, roles and responsibilities, more comprehensive briefings and induction, arrangements for performance appraisal of the Syndicate/Board, an increased emphasis on the bigger picture, more structured meetings, the re-appointment of a full-time Project Director, a revised framework for delegating authority and clearer reporting lines, and a project governance regime that provides independent review and challenge.

However, these all seem somewhat obvious procedures, so why weren’t they already being followed? They are not rocket science. Further, big questions are left unanswered. In the second Audit Group report it is stated:

‘The Council made clear at the time of the establishment of the Syndicate that its intention was that the Syndicate ‘would act as a ‘board’ for those with responsibility for delivering the project and managing the estate’. In addition, the regulations for the Syndicate make its responsibilities and powers clear, albeit within broadly defined parameters …’


‘It is evident from interviews with Syndicate members that there is an inconsistency in their understanding of the role of individual members and of the Syndicate as a collective. Some Syndicate members see the Syndicate as a quasi-board of directors with responsibility for delivering the project within its stated parameters, while others see it as having an advisory function, there to help navigate University politics [by that they possibly mean me] and act as a stakeholder representative.’

The awfulness of the above quote is, as a very senior member of the University put it to me, ‘the special governance structure of the Syndicate was supposed to avoid another CAPSA’. What does ‘navigate University politics’ actually mean? Why did the Audit Group not drill down to discover why there was inconsistency in understanding? If the reason for the inconsistency is not understood, why can it not happen again even with a revised governance structure? If the Audit Group did not ask, surely it was failing in its duty. If it did ask, why are the answers not given? What were they? I find it hard to believe that it was just induction arrangements, however inadequate. Maybe a Freedom of Information request might shed light on the matter.

There are many other inadequately addressed issues in the second report. For instance:

the reasons for the unwise appointment of a part-time Project Director, and the complicated reporting line, are not properly addressed (they should have been examined in detail);

while British Rail has the wrong kind of snow, the University appears to have the wrong type of lucrative incentive arrangements (yet while changes are suggested, there are no proposals for improved scrutiny by, say, the Council);

it is noted that ‘under the memorandum of understanding, the Registrary, as the officer who is appointed by the Council to the Syndicate … is also responsible for ensuring that the University’s interests are properly considered by the Syndicate, for carrying out regular reviews of the management, business and processes of the Syndicate and for receiving for review the management information of the Syndicate’s performance’; yet no comment is made as to whether the University’s interests were properly considered.

I could go on. However, I am limited to fifteen minutes, so in the time remaining I should address the specifics of this Report.

First, I am concerned about the possible large majority of externals over internals on the Board, and whether or not it can be achieved. In the first report the Audit Group noted that ‘the Syndicate had been insufficiently populated with individuals who had direct knowledge and experience of property development and the delivery of large capital construction projects’. As a member of the Council when the Syndicate was established, I was rather surprised to learn this. Why were such experts not appointed given that, as far as I can tell from the Reporter, the Syndicate was from formation until very recently always at least one external member short? If the University was unable to appoint five qualified externals in the past, why should it be able to appoint up to eight in the future? What circumstances have changed? Did the Audit Group ask why sufficient externals were not appointed before and, if it did, what was the answer?

Second, given the wide powers of the Syndicate/Board, in that ‘the Board shall be authorized to exercise in the name of the University in relation to the affairs of the Board all the powers of the University’, are there sufficient checks and balances? While it is true that the Board may make ‘no proposal relating to the erection, demolition, or substantial alteration of any building for academic or (non-commercial) research purposes … unless it has been specifically approved by Grace of the Regent House’, what is to stop the Board covering West and North West Cambridge with commercial buildings without the permission of the University?

I accept that a degree of trust is required in the Board. Indeed, it has been suggested to me in the past that I am sometimes too sceptical; however, trust can sometimes be undermined. As I noted in the first Discussion, the Minutes of the Council of 24 November 2014 recorded that: ‘The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Affairs reported. Phase 1 of the development was on time and on budget; ...’ However, my sums suggested at least a £23.6m hole at that time (a calculation that has not been repudiated, given that the Council has not seen fit to respond to the Discussion). In that Discussion, I went on to apologize for naïvely trusting what I was told. Trust is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Should there not be some further checks and balances added to the regulations? Might not more of the ‘strategic and financial framework and any other limitations set by the Council or the University’ of Regulation 4 be spelt out?

Thirdly, the proposed Regulation 1 refers to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Yet, the Statutes and Ordinances know of no CFO. The establishment of a CFO would be an important change of governance that should be proposed by a separate Report. Until such a CFO is established, this regulation should refer to the Director of the Finance Division, a post known to Statutes and Ordinances.

Professor G. R. Evans (Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History), read by the Deputy Senior Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, two constitutional points seem of especial importance in this Report. One those with long memories are likely to applaud; the other they may not.

To take the second first. The decision to allow either the Council or the General Board or any other body or authority to take over future decision-making in a particular area with the consent of the Regent House, constitutes a delegation of powers under Statute A III 7. This has happened in the case of accepting tenders, a concern on which I see I spoke in this House in 2002.1 It happened again in the case of the handing over of decisions about changing the procedure for Senior Academic Promotions to the General Board in the following academical year.2 Such delegations may seem good sense at the time but once the Regent House ceases to be entitled to a Report and the chance to reject a recommendation much disappears behind the scenes, into brief Minutes, often not put online for many months. So I hope acceptance of the present proposal will not be regretted.

The other key constitutional proposal will enable the University to reconsider the consequences of the changes it made when it made provision for the abolition of the offices of Secretary General and Treasurer3 and with them the triumvirate arrangement at the top of the Unified Administrative Service, which left the Registrary with monarchical powers. The new Chief Financial Officer will not sit within that pyramid structure beneath the Registrary. This is a big change and I hope the Regent House will be given a more detailed account of its constitutional implications in the Council’s Notice in reply.

Joint Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 16 May 2016 and 27 April 2016, on the public display of Class-lists and related matters (Reporter, 6426, 2015–16, p. 547)

Professor G. J. Virgo (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I speak in my capacity as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, at the request of the General Board, but my comments are influenced by my long experience in this University as supervisor, Tutor, Director of Studies, and Senior Tutor.

Last year I received a petition signed by over 1,200 present and former students organized by a group calling itself Our grade, our choice. I took this petition to a meeting of the General Board’s Education Committee to determine whether there was any appetite to review the public publication of class-lists outside the Senate-House. There was. A similar appetite for review was expressed at a meeting of the Senior Tutors’ Standing Committee on Education. There followed an extensive and thorough consultation of Faculties, Departments, Colleges, CUSU, and the Proctors about the public publication of class-lists and the possible implications of ceasing such publication. Only one College and one Faculty expressed support for maintenance of the status quo; all other responses supported change. A number of Faculties, Departments, and Colleges identified legitimate uses for data contained in the class-lists. All such uses have been catered for in the recommendations contained in the Report.

At the heart of this Report are two key proposals. First, the public publication of class-lists should cease. Secondly, the information contained in the class-lists should be released only on a need-to-know basis. I realize that these proposals have prompted discussion throughout the collegiate University. Some Heads of House at a recent meeting of the Colleges Committee expressed surprise and concern about the implications of the Report for the Colleges and requested reconsideration by the General Board. The General Board at its meeting last week considered the relevant minute from the meeting of the Colleges Committee and confirmed its unanimous support for this Report.

I understand the importance of tradition for this University. Such tradition should be preserved where it is beneficial to the mission and function of the University; the public publication of class-lists is not beneficial. Those of us who were students here many years ago may have happy memories of standing outside the Senate-House on a warm June day waiting for somebody to emerge from the Old Schools and pin up a class-list, followed by the rush of the crowd and the fight to see where on that list you had been placed. At least you may have happy memories if you did well. But that is not how most students discover their class today. The quickest way to do so, and also to discover marks in individual papers, is from CamSIS. Rather than waiting outside the Senate-House, most students sit in their rooms, constantly refreshing the page, until their result is published. The lists still outside the Senate-House appear largely to be the subject of photographs taken by visiting tourists.

That in itself is not a reason to remove the tradition of public publication. But those reasons are clear, and have been acknowledged by almost all of those who responded to the consultation. First, we are in an era of higher education where student choice is at the heart of what we do. Indeed, ‘student choice’ forms part of the title of the government’s recently published White Paper on higher education.1 A student’s examination result is data personal to that student and it should be for that student to determine who should be informed of it, save where there is a need to know that result. That has been recognized in other universities around the world; it is time it is recognized here. Secondly, in my time as Pro-Vice-Chancellor I have been increasingly concerned by the levels of anxiety suffered by our students with consequent harm to their mental health. This is aggravated by the fear of public humiliation that under-performance in examination will be revealed to all. I am aware that some critics of the Report have asserted that students need to be more resilient, but this betrays an ignorance of the genuine pressures faced by many of our students. If ceasing to publish our class-lists publicly reduces some of that anxiety, we should consider it our obligation to do so.

Finally, a consequence of the recommendations in this Report is that the Tompkins and Baxter tables would cease to be published. That would be a very good thing. The Tompkins table of Colleges has previously been constructed by a third party and published in The Independent. There will be no Tompkins table this year. The Baxter tables are constructed by a third party on the basis of class-lists supplied by a College. These tables rank the Colleges by subject and cohort. They are confidential to the Colleges, who pay for their production, and cannot be used by Faculties, Departments, students, or alumni to assess academic strengths of the individual Colleges. Some Colleges regard these tables as an important way of monitoring academic performance, but their principal impact is to rank the Colleges. Whether it is appropriate for Colleges to compete in this way is a matter for the Colleges to determine. But I know from my previous College experience that these tables can have an adverse impact, typically implicit, on vital educational matters which are of interest to and the responsibility of the University. Rather than focusing on students as individuals, which is one of the strengths of the collegiate system, the desire to rank highly in these intercollegiate tables can create a risk-adverse culture, which can impact on admissions decisions, particularly affecting widening participation and social mobility; the pressure to provide more supervisions than the norm; and decisions about whether or where a student should take exams. This is unacceptable and a welcome consequence of this Report will be to reduce the pressures for such behaviour.

One particular issue relating to the present practice of public publication of class-lists should be emphasized, namely our obligations to comply with data protection legislation. Whilst public publication of class-lists is provided for in our data protection statement,2 to which students consent each year, the validity of this consent depends on the publication by the University of examination result data being characterized as ‘legitimate’. The possibility of a blanket consent for use of data will be removed if the EU General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in 2018, and would mean that specific consent will need to be obtained from each student for sharing their data. Again, this comes back to student choice. And that is at the heart of the recommendations in this Report. It is their grade; it should be their choice.

I commend this Report to the Regent House.


Mr L. Orfali (Selwyn College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it is possible to believe, or to be led to believe, that the crucial argument in favour of retaining the class-lists is rooted in tradition. This is not true.

Tradition, I must emphasize, has a place in the hearts of many students. The elimination of class-lists is going to have repercussions far greater than the stream of students heading towards the Senate-House in mid-June. An example that is dear to me is the consequent abolition of the reading out of results at the Senate-House for Part II and Part III of the Mathematical Tripos. Anyone who has ever sat examinations in this Tripos will be able to tell you how this long-standing tradition provides them with a connection with the great minds of the past who sat the very same Tripos (and there have been many). The traditional awarding of the Senior Wrangler title to a student is another consequent tradition that would be lost. Once again, the feeling of connection with the University’s past and the feeling of community that the nervous awaiting of results creates would evaporate, leaving the University one harmless tradition poorer. Losing the class-lists, losing the reading of the results, and losing the Senior Wrangler’s ‘annunciation’ constitute a loss far too great to be assimilated.

However, tradition is not the crucial aspect. As I mentioned in my examples above, it is the sense of community that would be attacked, and that – I am convinced – should be at the core of this Discussion. This is not a fight in favour or against rituals or ancient quirks. No, this is about favouring individualism at the expense of a sense of community. Western society at large has seen an incredible, unhealthy shift towards a view of one’s successes and failures that is insular, isolationist, and ultimately defective of a characteristic human trait: empathy for and from a wider community. This shift towards individualism, incidentally, has been connected to a higher rate of suicides in the Western world, therefore clearly demonstrating that making the students’ failures private is not going to solve mental health issues. Publicly releasing class-lists – provided that there is a good opt-out system – can provide this University and its students with a sense of shared endeavour, of communal struggle against the titanic figure of Tripos examinations. When I received a disappointing result in Part Ib, I was relieved to find that many people whom I’d never met before were sitting by the boards in front of the Senate-House cheering each other up for what had clearly been a bad result for many. Instead of going back to my room and retiring away from sight to lick my wounds, I was given the benefit of perspective and of shared empathy. I struck up conversation with these fellow students and we all strove to let those in similar or worse situations know that they were not alone. Perspective is not gained behind a locked door. Empathy does not reach across walls. Community is lost when we are allowed to consider ourselves alone and lonely in our failures. And for those who achieve well, it can be eye-opening to realize that they too are not alone. Arrogance is difficult to maintain when one is exposed to the reality of being a good student amongst many good students.

Therefore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to remind you, the General Board, and the Council that the abolishment of class-lists is likely to reinforce one of the most inhuman aspects of Western Society: reclusive individualism. I want to believe that this University can stand proud against the current and remind itself and its students that we are all in this together, that we are all called – before and above academic excellence – to show empathy and lend a hand to those in difficulty, preventing them from closing up to the outside world and magnify the scale of their suffering. Abolishing class-lists isn’t going to teach us this. It isn’t going to be a panacea against all mental health issues. It is simply going to shift the problem from the public eye to the silence of one’s room. And – to quote Simon and Garfunkel – silence grows like cancer.

Mr K. Murison (Emmanuel College):

I am President of Student Minds Cambridge, Welfare Officer at Emmanuel College Student Union, and Seconds Mixed Captain of Emmanuel College Netball because that seems to matter. I cannot stress enough how much this Discussion matters, I cannot stress how much it is important that we pass this motion. We have heard just from the other side, the opposition may I call them, that class-lists are a wonderful thing, that they are great for communal spirit. But you seem to forget the idea of competition, but not healthy competition. Not healthy competition amongst, as you say, from the greatest minds of the youth of this country but savage horrible competition that drives people to extremes that I have seen.

Now in this speech I will be talking about a lot and I will be talking about the deepest and some of the darkest moments I have seen in Cambridge University. If anybody feels uncomfortable, please, you are allowed to step outside. I will be speaking about self-harm, suicide, and the effect of things like the class-lists, the Tompkins table, and everything that is connected with it has done to students at this University. And at the end if you still feel that the class-lists are a great idea, fine, you can vote for them; but I urge you to open your eyes and understand how damaging they have become to students of this generation.

I must also stress that the burden is not on us, the burden is on the other side to tell us why we are the only university that feels the need to publish class-lists. You can see shaking heads – okay, you can tell me I am wrong – I am sure you can pick out a handful, but the majority of Russell Group universities do not do it and there is a reason for it and I know that you are probably going to try and track back any facts you put in my way, so I am going to ignore them. I don’t think they are relevant to this Discussion. Yes, you can laugh but, honestly guys, I have seen how many people come to me and express things, that they are on the verge of self-harm because they worry that they are failing with a II.ii. A II.ii isn’t failing; a third isn’t failing. You’re at Cambridge. You are hard and you are tough, but that doesn’t mean that getting a third is bad. This is what you do not seem to understand. You seem to say that there’s a connection, it’s okay, because you are all together. But you haven’t failed. This is what I do not understand, but do you know who thinks you have failed? Your College, your Senior Tutor, your doctor. I have heard people testify to me that they have been asked to send letters to their Senior Tutor for getting a II.ii because apparently they didn’t work hard enough. Is that acceptable, this side? Do you think that is acceptable? And what this is basically about is grade shaming, about the practice that has developed in this University that seems to believe that if you do not get high enough grades you are shameful for some reason, that you have let your College down. Let me tell you something. Your College should not care about your result more than you. Their responsibility is to provide supervisors, a place to live, a place to work such as a library, and keep it well funded, and keep it humane so that you may achieve what you can. It is not the responsibility of the College to limit rights and privileges such as where you live, Scholar’s Dinner, exhibitions, money, for getting good results in the exams.

Listen to yourselves and stress that what this does to the students is it makes them believe that they are inadequate, that they feel stress, and I can tell you that as a Natural Scientist and someone who has studied the brain, I know what stress does. Do you know how we reproduce stressed rats for use in control for experiments, for making them induce anxiety? We give them so much fear that they respond differently to normal rats. That is what the students are. We are rats. We are the little experiment that the tutors, that the Directors of Studies, the academic staff, are trialling; they are giving you so much pressure. For what reason? You talk about healthy competition, you talk about people doing the best they can, but you are at Cambridge: the reason why you are here – the reason why you were chosen – is you do that already. While others were drinking in the pub at age 15, you were staying at home reading that Nature paper. While people went on lads’ holidays, you went to the University of Newcastle to do a five-day summer school. That’s the type of people that we are. I see you shaking your heads, maybe you were different, but honestly I look around and I look at all the people who I work with, if I’m in the lab, the library. They work hard enough anyway, they don’t need this added pressure and they need to know how to cope with this daily. You say, community: what happens when they go out into the world and they’re rejected from a job? There’s no massive kind of collection of people who will say ‘Oh well, we got rejected from the same kind of job’. That is my point today, is that the class-lists and the Tompkins table create a culture which is not found anywhere else, and there comes a point when we talk about resilience and we talk about people learning to deal with stress and rejection, and that’s important, but there comes a point where there’s too much, there’s too much of that and then it just becomes unhelpful – it doesn’t help us.

So what I want to do today in the limited time I have left is to tell you about a few of the stories that I have heard in my capacity as Student Minds President and as Emmanuel College SU Welfare Officer. In a few hours’ time I will go and sit in a room and I will have people come to me and share their issues and I will direct them to the Student Advice Service, the University Counselling Service. Now one thing that strikes me always about this is that they normally come with issues unrelated to Cambridge – troubles at home, a sister is self-harming. It’s very upsetting, but instead of me basically saying ‘I’ll help you sort that issue, we can look at that’, the first issue they always come to me with is ‘I’m worried about my work’. Why? This is what I ask you. Why? Because I know that you want us all to do well at University. I love that about Cambridge. You encourage us, but the issue is when the encouragement is to such an extent that it wipes out the rest of this glorious city, all the experiences that you can have here; of all the difficulties you face, that you believe the one thing that matters is getting into that exam room and doing well, that is the issue. So, as I’ve said, I have had people come to me who are contemplating suicide because they are so worried about their exam results and so worried that they will be shown up, that they will be publicly shamed. People have talked about opt-out systems, but I really don’t think that is enough, and it is up to you to tell me why you believe that someone should have to opt out of having the entire world being able to view their grade. That is the issue we are discussing here and I do not see any reason why that is acceptable. You can publicize it if you want, you can shout about it if you want, all you like, but if you don’t want to, that is your right; that should be the default setting, it should not be what you have to opt into.

I have people come to me whose parents are going through a divorce. I really want to help them, I really do. I want to make sure that they are getting the right support. The issue is they are too worried about their exams. They’re in the first year, they shouldn’t care about their exams, but the issue is their exam results will go up on here. The College will know what they get. The College will shame them, will take away privileges, and other Colleges will tell them where they [can] live, all in the name that they are interested in our academic [achievement]. Colleges, your responsibility, as I said, is to support us, it is not to encourage us. We can do that ourselves, it’s what we do best and for the rest of our lives that is what we will do.

I finally just want to finish on the idea of personal aspirations, about this idea that it’s useful to encourage people. There is a very big difference between encouraging people and shaming them, and putting them into such a state that they see people come up with anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, personality disorders. And I know that abolishing the class-lists isn’t going to solve all of that. It’s not going to solve anything if we abolish the Tompkins table, but it’s a start because what it’s representative of is how the University views and treats its students. They are treated with … Honestly they are not treated with respect, they are not treated with understanding. They are treated with suspicion. There seems to be an idea that we are not going to work hard enough unless we have encouragement. And I know that’s not what you mean, I know that’s not what you want, but it’s what comes across when lecturers tell me they won’t record their lectures because they are scared that people won’t turn up to their lectures. I am sorry but we pay for these. We like our course, that’s why we are here and that’s why we are going to turn up. I can see some of the opposition shaking their heads and clutching their heads. Guys, please – understand how much this affects people – how much you need to have it both ways, and the way we can have it both ways is not by having the default that it’s published; it’s the default that it’s not published. And then if people have these issues, they come forward. That’s how we get around this issue.

And the Tompkins table and the other thing Professor Virgo mentioned – Colleges need to stop caring so much about what their students get, because it’s not in their responsibility but that’s what class-lists do, and that is why I beg you, you have to support this motion.

Mr J. V. Williams (Trinity College), read by Mr K. Murison:

There is no reason why the class-lists need to be made public other than the ludicrous justification of ‘tradition’; a set of anonymized data, things like numbers in each class, distribution of marks, will give all the information needed for comparisons and the like. This could also be sub-classified by any reasonable criterion that is deemed necessary without any need to sacrifice anonymity.

As for a personal experience, in my Part II year I suffered greatly with depression. This was at its worst in Easter Term, which is when I was diagnosed. I struggled greatly and even had to return home for my own safety from harm. I did, however, need a high enough pass to proceed to the Part III course for which I held a traditional offer. I had been reassured by pastoral staff at my College that they could take care of any necessary issues if I didn’t perform at the level that was expected. In the end I missed my offer, and it took so long to have any review put through the Standing Committee [on Applications] that I was forced to take a year out and only found out at Easter that I could take up my place a year late on the course. However, in the meantime, especially immediately after my Part II results were released, I had a lot of people commenting on my situation and questioning why I had failed to get back in. I went [through] a long period of having to handle regular questioning from people who couldn’t understand why I had ‘failed’ (despite getting an honours). I had to explain about my depression to get people to stop being so nosey and honing in on an inappropriate personal issue. Thankfully, I was perfectly happy to be open about my illness so this wasn’t too traumatic. However, had I wished not to be so open about my depression, as many sufferers do, I would have faced a horrible situation of being bombarded with questions about what had ‘gone wrong’, completely trivializing my serious illness.

It is one thing for the University to claim that it takes mental health illness seriously, as I was told over and over when fighting for my right to appeal, it is another to actually take the actions to prove this. Removing the publication of the class-lists is hardly a huge inconvenience for the University, but it could make a world of difference for those struggling with mental ill health, when the smallest things can have huge effects.

Ms O. M. Olufemi (Selwyn College):

I am a member of the CUSU BME campaign committee.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, class-lists are an outdated practice that do not encourage the right environment for academic growth. Since being here I’ve realized that, above all, Cambridge prizes strong intellectual debate and academic achievement. But for some students, the anxiety caused by having their results available to the public is enough to be detrimental to academic success. This is why the continued existence of class-lists seems counter-productive. Higher education institutions should not be resistant to change because that is the nature of how our education system grows and develops. It is because of change that I am able to stand here today and so I ask people to consider making a change that will ultimately better all students but especially those who suffer from mental health problems. Mental healthcare services are stretched with very long waiting lists, so the requirement to provide diagnostic evidence for anxiety and distress in order to opt out of the class-list is often impossible to fulfil, especially in a short time-span.

Because of the University’s rightfully prestigious reputation, many students who are academically capable come here and crumble under the weight of expectations. All that keeping class-lists does is maintain this unnecessary pressure, it tells students who are struggling that they deserve to be shamed, and puts many at risk of being mocked by their peers. This kind of shaming amongst students is widespread and pervasive, and those that face the brunt of it are students from ‘non-traditional backgrounds’. Grades do not always reflect academic potential and solidifying them through the continued existence of class-lists does a great disservice to students. Abolishing class-lists does not mean sacrificing academic excellence nor does it mean mollycoddling us, it is simply a recognition that privacy and student safety are important. Abolishing them would help to create the kind of learning environment that is less geared towards toxic and harmful competition and more geared towards a challenging and ultimately fulfilling academic experience. There are a number of pressing issues that we could and should be turning our focus to instead – the gender attainment gap for example, the under-representation of BME students and staff members, making the University more accessible for disabled students – the list is endless.

There are also some practical reasons:

lists are often photographed and shared online, which is a cause of huge anxiety and potentially a data protection issue. This has been happening for several years now (most notably on The Student Room forum, a social networking site with over a million members and 6.5 million visitors per month,1 but it is increasingly problematic given how common image-sharing devices and apps are and how quickly and widely images can be shared with huge audiences. It would also be very difficult to enforce a ban on photographing the lists given how easily portable and concealable most camera-enabled phones are;

transgender students and students who have changed their names for other reasons are faced with another laborious obstacle – again, during the very stressful exam period – to avoid what could be a distressing or even endangering breach of privacy; and

the University of Oxford allows an easy opt-out which does not require any medical evidence or supporting statements: Cambridge is therefore the last remaining institution which effectively makes public name display compulsory. Given that the UK’s other ancient elite university no longer forces students to have their name displayed, the argument that this is a tradition vital to upholding academic standards cannot be supported. There is no evidence that publishing grades ‘incentivizes’ performance and increases attainment – otherwise we would have seen a decline in Oxford’s standards since the change was made, which hasn’t been the case.

Ultimately, I think it is time for Cambridge to follow suit and end this harmful practice. It no longer benefits students, it is a waste of resources, and is representative of archaic thinking about mental health.

Ms H. A. Blair (CUSU Access and Funding Officer):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am the Access and Funding Officer of Cambridge University Students’ Union. My role focuses on breaking down barriers that prevent people from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds applying to Cambridge, and higher education in general.

I would like to approach this Discussion from a perspective that focuses on access, arguing for the abolition of class-lists.

It is always difficult to judge one’s own academic ability – exam results are hard to predict and it is easy to under-estimate ourselves. As a prospective applicant from a background that sends few or no people to the University of Cambridge, it is even worse – who is there around to share their experience, assure you that you’re good enough to get a place, and that you would be able to cope once here? Applying is a great risk, and is felt by many disadvantaged people as too much of a risk to take, especially if there are signs that this University isn’t an environment that would include and support you.

Feelings of under-confidence and alienation do not disappear upon students’ arrival to study here. For many students from under-represented backgrounds who do progress to study at Cambridge, the feeling of being an imposter in this space, both academically and socially, never quite goes away. The anticipation of failure can lead to overwhelming levels of stress.

Class-lists play into and accentuate all of the fears and discomfort experienced by both prospective applicants and those that get here – why apply to somewhere that will make your ‘failure’ public?

Knowledge of class-lists has not stayed within our Cambridge bubble. The culture of this University is constantly under scrutiny from the outside world – by the press, by the public, and within that most importantly, by prospective applicants. Most of the time, the culture at Cambridge is negatively mythicized and misreported, but class-lists only fan these flames. Class-lists perpetuate conceptions that this University is ruthlessly tough, that it cares more about its academic prowess than the welfare of its students, and that it is happy to expose and laugh at those who come bottom. This impression is certainly easy to pick up from the outside looking in. It reaches prospective applicants – we know that class-lists are a hot topic for the national press and on forums, as was mentioned, like The Student Room. As students, staff members, and academics engaged in widening participation, we fight endlessly to refute the idea that this University is elitist. Class-lists are an example of elitism and how can we go about refuting that?

The kinds of students that we admit here are already ambitious, self-motivated, hard-working, eager to learn and make the most of the countless academic opportunities that Cambridge presents. Our admissions process, which uses school grades, applications, and interviews, ensures that students given places here do truly love their subjects, will embrace academic challenges, and will always seek to do their best.

To my knowledge, the applicants we admit have not achieved their top-standard academic record through a culture of competition created by the publication of their exam results. We must give students more credit than that – when they get here, they have got here through their own commendable qualities and there is no reason to introduce a system of public class-lists to continue their success.

When I visit schools or talk to prospective applicants on outreach events, the question I am frequently and fearfully asked is ‘is everyone at Cambridge really competitive?’ I want to emphasize that it’s not the case, and remark that students here are competitive within themselves, not amongst each other – they want to get the top grades to make themselves proud on their own individual journey through university. I usually do go on and say this, but I shouldn’t need a voice in the back of my mind reminding me that class-lists stopped our journeys as students from being wholly our own, and that many students spend exam term fearful of the exposure and humiliation they cause. Many students on places like The Student Room say that is true for them.

The University of Cambridge is committed to widening access – this University is better for increased diversity and committed support for students from every background. The barriers it faces in this work are enormous and varied – do not let something like class-lists, among other unnecessary and harmful traditions, be among them.

Ms J. K. Stewart (CUSU Co-ordinator):

My name is Jemma Stewart, I am an alumna of Homerton College and Co-ordinator of CUSU. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, if you are interested and can’t be bothered to look through the Cambridge University Reporter for my results, I graduated in Biological Anthropology with a II.i.

It’s awful coming to the University of Cambridge, in my experience, from a state school; making the transition from being one of the most intelligent people in the entire school to being surrounded by like-minded, academically gifted students, makes you question your individual merit, worthiness, and intelligence.

It’s a culture shock that made me see myself as being of average intelligence, and therefore strive to not be at the bottom of the list, rather than pushing myself to the top. When you apply to the University of Cambridge as a state school student, you are promised that your place at Cambridge is on individual academic merit alone – if you are passionate and driven by your academic curiosity, then you deserve a place here.

Why then is it the aim of each year to achieve a grade which does not place you at the bottom of the class-lists?

A very good friend of mine, Daisy Pope, who graduated from Robinson College, has given me permission to talk about her experience today. I remember that in her second year, Daisy achieved the only II.ii of our class, and was listed alone. I remember this, because Daisy was singled out on the public class-list outside of Senate-House and I would not have known [her result], if that had not been the case. I do not remember who in my class got firsts or a II.i, apart from myself, because there were more names in those sections, but I and a number of my colleagues still remember Daisy’s II.ii. Daisy is far from unintelligent and should be praised for her II.ii – which is a valid, valuable grade. Her subsequent final grade of a II.i was well achieved, and yet when I think of Daisy I still remember being concerned that she was being publicly shamed for doing well, because her mark was visually alone at the bottom of a public list.

I found out my final grade in the Post Office, on my phone, and subsequently I met up with friends to go and see what the rest of my class had achieved, regardless of whether or not they wanted us to know. We would then discuss their results without them – being happy or sad for them, without knowing what result they wanted or would be happy with. We take away individuals’ academic ability and drive, and replace it with a comparison of grades among our peers. I will not have my grade dismissed as the result of my College’s collective intelligence, or lack thereof if you come from a College low down on the Baxter table, as I do. I, my friends, my peers, my predecessors, and my successors have worked and will work tirelessly to expand our individual knowledge and it is our choice to share the proof of this knowledge, rather than opting out.

Removing the class-list system is the first step to ensuring that all students at the University of Cambridge are not pitted against one another for grades and rankings, but instead encouraged to broaden their minds and push the boundaries of knowledge.

What good is a tradition when the only benefit it confers is to scare students into working harder?

The publication of class-lists is a backwards tradition that keeps us rooted in a stale classroom, where our counterparts are superseding us by pioneering new technology and creating new traditions. The time has come for the University of Cambridge to become the forward-thinking bastion of modern knowledge that it claims to be, and to let students choose which of their peers can know their results.

I therefore urge the Regent House to accept this Report.

Mr J. A. Wall (Queens’ College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a CUSU Trustee, and though my association with the Students’ Union has informed my perspective, I would like to stress that this is my personal opinion of what class-lists do.

Class-lists, I would suggest, have little day-to-day impact upon a lot of the students at Cambridge. Nobody really comes to find out their results from here any more, it’s all through CamSIS. In terms of day-to-day life and the effect on life after graduation, class-lists do very little. It’s been stated that Faculties, Departments, and Colleges are also able to access the data contained within class-lists for valid purposes, following these proposals.

I’d ask, then, who class-lists are genuinely helpful for. Students at the top of the Tripos certainly receive a welcome and often un-needed boost to their egos, and aside from titles like Senior Wrangler, I’d say the people who benefit most from class-lists are the ones external to this institution who make use of the information; the obvious example would be graduate recruiters. As one of those whose hopeful II.i grade is likely to be closer to a II.ii than a first, I’d quite like it if recruiters just saw that I got a II.i. So that brings me to the point of who they are unhelpful for. Students like myself who are in the mid-range of the class-lists, or hopefully will be, don’t need extra hassle if they miss a grade; they know that everybody else knows what they’re going through, they have to re-schedule plans for after graduation, or plans to get jobs. However, I’d stress that those who are perhaps lower down the list, who face adverse effects such as mental health problems or come from less privileged backgrounds, are the ones who are placed under additional stress by the publication of the class-lists, and they are the ones who are likely to be the most affected. As such, I’d say it’s simply a common sense move to stop displaying class-lists, and I would hope that everyone would agree.

Mr R. E. Shah (Downing College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Discussion is about the abolition of class-lists, it’s not about the abolition of [degree] classification. A lot of what has been said has actually been directed towards the system of classification itself; whether there is a class system or not, your College will know your grade and they will act on it. I am actually very sympathetic to abolishing classification. I did my undergraduate degree here and stayed here for my Master’s, both of which were classified, and now I am doing a Ph.D. The freedom to be able to just explore ideas and do things without having to worry at the end about whether one gets a grade, aside from passing the Ph.D. of course, is quite valuable, and I would be considerably sympathetic to that being extended to undergraduates. I think there are considerable difficulties in doing so, but in principle I would love it if we could do that. But, given the system that we do have now, of classification, I do think we ought to keep the class-list. I believe the Joint Report of the Council and the General Board is flawed for procedural and substantive reasons.

Procedurally, we are given the impression from reading this Report that there is a consensus in favour of abolition. Nothing could be further from the truth. There is, amongst the student body, a substantial opposition to the move. A survey in The Tab, which I appreciate is not perhaps the most representative or reliable source of opinion, but which nevertheless was taken by about 1,000 students, showed that there is a roughly 50:50 split between retaining the class-list as it is now and abolishing it.1 Even if it’s only those 500 students who did actually vote in The Tab survey, that still means there are 500 students here who do think that, and possibly many more. While the result of the vote in CUSU Council may differ, I would point out that very few students had notice of the matter and so could tell their JCR/MCR representatives to attend the CUSU Council and have their views aired. I, of course, do not fault CUSU for taking the position they are taking; their internal procedures were legitimately followed and the CUSU officers are legislatively mandated to take the position that they do take. The point I am making is merely that this is not necessarily representative of student opinion and instead it would have been beneficial if the consultation had been open to all students to be able to respond to it, like the recent consultation that was had about the Graduate Union, which was open to all postgraduate students, or the recent Alcohol survey. I suspect that if this had been done, a wider survey of the full student opinion in the University would have been available, and there would be no illusion or impression that there is an overwhelming consensus in favour of abolition.

As regards the substantive issues, there are two key points: the publication of the class-list itself, and the subsequent tables that go with it.

On the publication of the class-list itself no argument has actually been provided justifying abolition. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the difficulty of opting out. The reasons on which you can do so are too narrow and the process involved – having to contact your Tutor and get a letter from your doctor and so on – is too cumbersome. It would be much better if the system were reformed and made it much easier to opt out, even to the point of simply being a matter of sending an email or ticking or unticking a box when one registers on CamSIS for exams. The University of Warwick, for example, still maintains public class-lists with the possibility of opt-out by emailing one’s department.2

Furthermore, there are benefits to retaining the class-list. A lot has been said about mental health in this Discussion, and it is indeed a crucial and prime consideration. However, there might be good reasons to think from that point of view why a public class-list (with a strengthened opt-out system, and I do stress that point) could be beneficial. In an article appearing in Varsity in April, Tom Rector argued that public class-lists made the receipt of exam results a collective experience rather than a lonely, individual one.3 This is something which Lorenzo [Orfali] earlier has already talked about. This, Tom Rector pointed out, could be beneficial to those with mental health issues as others would be more alert to those of their friends and classmates who might be affected by their results.

Similarly, some students do benefit from competition. The publication of the class-list undoubtedly encouraged me, as my Director of Studies knows, to work harder. I accept that this may not work for everyone, and this is why a robust and easy opt-out system should be available. But, if it is indeed about choice, those students who do want to be able to take part in a system of publication of class-lists because they feel they benefit from the collective experience or from the competitive spirit should be able to do so, whilst at the same time those students who do not want to do so should be able by very easily ticking or unticking a box to opt out from it.

There is also the aspect of tradition. A lot has been talked about that already. Of course, no one is suggesting that we should retain traditions when they cause significant harm, and indeed this is why the opt-out system must be changed. But traditions remain important. They unite us with those brilliant minds who have come before us and those who will come after. For many years all Cambridge students have lived the same experience of going up to Senate-House to find out their results. The system now is somewhat different, whereby you can find it out from CamSIS beforehand but a significant proportion of students do still come here to see how they did. This tradition allows our alumni to relate to the experiences of current students, and reminds them that this great institution can continue only with their support. We must be careful to avoid the situation where our alumni look back to support their alma mater, only to find it to be unrecognizable.

Furthermore, abolition might require changes to the degree ceremony itself. The ceremony begins with the Senior Proctor saying the following words: ‘Those men and women whose names the Registrary has today posted in the arcade beside the Senate-House…’. With the exception of the long overdue addition of the words ‘and women’, this formula has remained unchanged for many years. It would be a shame if we were to change it.

On this issue, it seems that none of the arguments given justify abolition, although they do point to a very strong case in favour of reforming the opt-out system and making it much easier. It is clear that there are reasons to retain the class-list, albeit with, as I said, a strengthened opt-out system. To abolish the class-list entirely would be, if I might borrow from the cliché, to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Finally, there is the issue of the Tompkins and Baxter tables. I agree that there are many valid criticisms with how those tables are compiled; they give a crude measure of attainment between Colleges. One suspects that this is the real reason for abolition. By not having the raw data available it would, their critics hope, become impossible to compile those tables. However, this argument seems to be flawed. Each College would still know how many results of each class it had attained. This information could potentially be obtained via a Freedom of Information request. Because it is aggregate data it would not be covered by personal information exception under the Freedom of Information Act, so abolishing the class-list would not entail the disappearance of the Tompkins table; it would still be around.

Instead, what the University should consider doing is publishing its own tables with much better methodology. Hopefully this table would eclipse the Tompkins table and minimize the negative effects it causes.

Mr C. H. G. Allen (GU President):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a member of the University Council, the General Board of the Faculties, the Senior Tutors’ Committee, the General Board’s Education Committee, and the Senior Tutor’s Standing Committee on Education, I have had the opportunity to watch the progress of this proposal through the University machinery over the past several months with some interest as it has achieved the approval of every single one of these bodies.

When I was first made aware of this proposal, I confess that – in contrast to my counterparts in CUSU, who have a democratic mandate to take their position – I was ambivalent about the public display of class-lists, and undecided. Having experienced four times the publication of my own grades as I progressed through the Natural Sciences Tripos, I was not immune to the wholesome blend of conservatism, vengefulness, and schadenfreude that motivates many in the University to wish to retain the spectacle of each new cohort of undergraduates being put through what we ourselves endured.

However, as soon as I spent any time actually thinking the proposal through it became obvious that there was no defensible position other than to support the abolition of public class-lists.

The starting point for this conclusion is that all individuals have a right to consent, or not to consent, to the public dissemination of their examination results, as the previous speaker agreed. The publication of the examination results of an individual who does not consent to this seems to me to be obviously morally indefensible, legally suspect, and – as I understand it – soon to be legally impermissible. And once you have conceded this point, as I did, the rest of the public class-list house of cards collapses in on itself.

Following this premise, it follows that the minimum moral responsibility of the University would be to establish a simple means by which any student, without the need to give an explanation or acquire their tutor’s permission, could opt out of public dissemination – as again suggested by the previous speaker.

Through the consultation run this year by the General Board, it became obvious that the collegiate University has no appetite for establishing such a procedure. Not only would it require the additional expense of staffing hours to administer the redacted class-lists, but the resulting documents would lose what little value they had in the first place. They would no longer be a comprehensive public record of examination results, and would therefore be an incomplete and unreliable resource for either looking up students’ performance or for ranking Colleges. So what would the point be? At that point, it’s barely even traditional any more.

That’s if you concede that public class-lists were traditional in the first place. In this University, any tradition which is only two hundred and sixty-eight years old barely even qualifies. I have, in the course of my education in this place of learning, spent many a pleasant Saturday morning toasting the sainted prince Henry VI with 7.5% ABV founder’s ale poured into a silver goblet. That toast, and that fine silver goblet, are each much, much older than the public display of class-lists. In a University with so many longer-standing and far more entertaining traditions, it’s clearly a misguided nonsense to make the claim that the public display of class-lists has made any significant, historical impact on this place. Seen from an objective distance, with perspective, public class-lists are nothing more than a short-term quirk introduced to save the expense of buying stamps.

And even if it were a venerable tradition, if there are good reasons for the abolition of a tradition then the University should have the confidence in its convictions to go ahead. The University once had a seven-hundred-year tradition of not admitting women to degrees, even if they passed their exams. This was a bad tradition, and we got rid of it. My own College had a four-hundred-year-old tradition of giving its members degrees without even sitting exams. This was, in my opinion, a very fine tradition, but we still got rid of it – because it had adverse secondary consequences, such as the scarcity of half-decent King’s alumni before the 20th century, and the time had come to move on.

Of course, the abolition of public class-lists has other administrative consequences. There would be no point in abolishing their publication if Colleges were then provided with the same data anyway. Not only do the Colleges have an inglorious history of sending this sensitive data to The Independent for further analysis and publication, it would go against the principle I articulated earlier – that students have a right to opt out of dissemination of their data to third parties. What right does any College have to the personal data of another College’s students? This data must therefore be also redacted, and Colleges would then receive incomplete data which would prove useless for any decent analysis.

Colleges should, however, retain the ability to compare the performance of their own students against the performance of the background cohort in each Part of each Tripos. Under the proposals in this Report they will retain this ability – they will be provided with their own students’ performance, and the performance of every other student in the University anonymized by name and by College. This will provide more than sufficient information about which to brag in their annual reports.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, in the past few months I have heard a variety of arguments against the removal of public class-lists which simply do not stand up to scrutiny.

One is that students will begin to lie about their grades as soon as public class-lists are removed. Here I feel the need to remind the University of Cambridge that other universities are available. None of these have automatic public class-lists. Do students from Harvard, Oxford, LSE, and Imperial get away with lying about their grade? No, thanks to the wonderful modern invention called the certified transcript. In fact, when I applied for my own Ph.D. in Cambridge I had to provide a certified transcript anyway. For some reason a blurry photo of my Part III class-list outside the Senate-House in the rain wasn’t deemed adequate proof – not least because it did not show the most relevant information to my application: that my overall common or garden II.i was made up of a variety of irrelevant, truly horrific examination results alongside a very high first in my all-important research project.

Another argument is that it will make writing references at short notice impossible. The first thing to point out is that tutors and Directors of Study will still retain their access to the necessary data under the current proposal. In the event that someone else needs to write a reference at short notice, we are saved once more by the trusty transcript. It is the work of 30 seconds for a student to download their non-certified transcript and attach it in an email to their referee – and probably less hassle than looking up the the thing on the public class-list anyway.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my final remarks relate to the intercollegiate rankings tables.

The first thing to note about these is that, if the Colleges demand it, they could still be revived. The University publishes summary data – if the Colleges so strongly feel that a ranking table has some benefit, I’m sure the student statistics office would receive such a proposal with the enthusiasm that it merits.

The second thing to note about these ranking tables, particularly the Tompkins table, is that they ought not to be revived. Need I remind the University, that half of students admitted to the University each year, are postgraduates? How are the Colleges incentivized to prioritize their provision of graduate education when the most public record of educational quality ignores these students, this full half of all students who graduate from the University? How are the Colleges incentivized to share resources and best practice amongst each other when they know that this will only disadvantage them in the eyes of applicants and alumni? All the Colleges have any need or right to know is how their students’ performance compares to the background distribution. To reiterate: they will retain their access to this information under the proposals included in this Report. Furthermore, and contrary to what we’ve heard earlier, public announcement of prizes will continue, so the vitally important identity of the Senior Wrangler could still be made known to the great British public.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I commend this Report to the Regent House, and I do so without having mentioned even once the fact that publicly displaying the examination results of struggling and often fragile young people is archaic, barbaric, and cruel.

I commend this Report because there is simply no more need for public class-lists, and there is no good argument for keeping them.

Ms A. J. W. Sebatindira (Trinity Hall):

I am the incoming CUSU Women’s Officer for next year.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, it has never been my experience that public class-lists are viewed simply in order to find out one’s own grades. At least in the case of law students, last year we received our grades electronically long before the class-lists on which they could also be found were hung up at Senate-House. Thus when lawyers crowded around those lists when they were eventually put up, it was with the sole intention of finding out other people’s grades.

I cannot understand what purpose this serves. Certainly, academic aspirations within my own College have been raised without the need for class-lists or unhealthy competition. Cambridge is an intense university. Even if you were the only person studying your subject in your year in your College, I don’t doubt that you’d be pushed by your tutor, your Director of Studies, by your supervisors, and by yourself, to do your best. If those forms of encouragement are not sufficient, I can’t see what peer pressure could contribute beyond grade shaming. And that cannot be the sort of culture we seek to foster here.

Moreover, welfare at Cambridge cannot simply entail wider provision of mental health services (although wider provision is desperately needed). It should also involve getting rid of unnecessary causes of stress, even where such causes have been a part of the Cambridge culture for centuries, as we have heard before. Cambridge students are incredibly resilient and hard-working people, but we’re also human. We are therefore entitled to seek redress where our dignity can be encroached upon and our mental health needlessly placed at risk. The abolition of these class-lists provides a small but important opportunity for the University to show that it acknowledges its students’ needs and doesn’t simply seek to maintain tradition at all costs.

My final point relates to the gender and BME academic attainment gaps. Numerous reports and critical evaluations have sought to explain the gaps, and their results are much needed in the process of making Cambridge a university where all students, regardless of gender and/or race, can succeed. The uncritical publication of class-lists that lay apparent these patterns in grades only serves to legitimize the status quo, and risks making the necessary changes to Cambridge’s culture and infrastructure more difficult.

Mr B. M. Mahon (St Edmund’s College):

My name is Brendan Mahon, I’m a Ph.D. student in Chemistry at St Edmund’s College. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, alongside my Ph.D., I’m also the Chair of Trustees for the Nightline Association. We run student helplines in over a hundred higher education institutions across the UK and Ireland; Cambridge’s Linkline is one of our helplines. I’m also the former Chair of CUSU, former President of CUSU’s LGBT+ Campaign, and former President of St Edmund’s College Combination Room. My remarks today are in a personal capacity.

I’m not here to argue, as some have, that public class-lists are an outdated nuisance, although it’s true that they are. I’m here today to argue that public class-lists are actively harmful to the mental health, and therefore to the educational attainment, of undergraduate members of this University.

At Nightline, one of our core aims is that fewer students have their education compromised by emotional difficulty. That’s because we understand the link between good mental health and good grades.

This University rightly pours huge resource into teaching, to ensure that its students achieve excellence. The enormous amount of time, effort, and money that goes into supervisions, lectures, labs, seminars, writing, and then marking exams, as I’m sure many members of the Regent House are doing now; it’s all worth something, because it all contributes to the education of undergraduates.

Public class-lists add nothing; in fact, I would argue they are a hurdle to success. But they’re not a hurdle based on how clever you are, how hard you’ve worked, how much you’ve learned; they’re a hurdle based on how much you care about what other people think of you. And that is wrong.

How can you possibly fulfil your academic potential when you can’t eat because of stress, you can’t sleep because of stress, you can’t work because you’re terrified that you’ll be humiliated when the results are up on the wall of the Senate-House, free for everyone to see – friends, enemies, people you’ve never met, the general public, the coach-load of tourists who’ve wandered past the ‘No entry’ signs, everyone. The worry becomes all-consuming. This is the reality of the exam period for some students.

And I know, because they’ve phoned me in the middle of the night, when they feel they have nobody else to turn to.

Many of the arguments that we’ve heard today in terms of retaining public class-lists centre around the idea of competition, pushing people to do their best to beat their peers. To me, that argument amounts to a threat to publicly shame students who don’t match or beat their classmates. The idea that the potential for humiliation on the wall of this building will somehow help students to do better when sat in the exam hall is absurd.

Saying to someone ‘Can you absorb all of this knowledge?’ is a valid educational tool. Saying ‘You’ll be humiliated if you don’t’ is not.

I’d like to directly confront, if I may, the dreadful argument advanced by a previous speaker. The suggestion that students will somehow do better if only we put some more pressure on, if we threaten them with humiliation, is insulting. It’s insulting to those of us who supervise students, it’s insulting to those of you who direct their studies, and it’s insulting to those who tutor them. But most of all it’s insulting to the students themselves. However, it is the suggestion that ending the publication of class-lists will increase student suicides that I find most galling. The previous speaker suggested that we should lend a hand to those in difficulty. Well, I have lent that hand, I have spoken on the phone to people who want to end their own lives, that’s why I’m here today. I’m here to help them. Being a Nightliner doesn’t end when the phone goes down, it means being here today trying to make things better, to stop more calls from ever needing to be made.

Some also lament the ending of a tradition which has endured centuries. However, with today’s ubiquity of cameras, the sharing of people’s grades on social media, and the potential for ever-wider dissemination of the class-lists, it’s clear that the world has moved on. It’s time this University did the same.

I would also like to address The Tab ‘survey’: any statistician will tell you it is absolutely worthless. Anyone can fill in a survey any number of times, and there is no bar on filling it in a second time. It could be one person filling it out a 1,000 times, it absolutely could. It has no benefit whatsoever and should not even be brought up here.

In short, public class-lists hurt students, they don’t help them. The extra stress they cause makes it harder to achieve higher grades, not easier. Public class-lists need to go.

I urge all members of the Regent House to end this outdated, useless and above all harmful practice. Let this be the last time that these boards go up on this wall. I commend this statement to the Regent House.

Mr J. Wand (St Catharine’s College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I’m speaking in support of the abolition of the public publication of the class-list as a student and as a welfare officer; as an individual whose name is printed and nailed to those boards [of the Senate-House]; as a JCR representative who sees the impact this tradition has on his fellow students; and as a member of this University who believes that competition hinders academic achievement. I should say that I have shared my views with members of my JCR and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The arguments against the abolition of the public publication seem intent on putting tradition ahead of students, placing rivalry above reality. No tradition, however old, should be permitted to go unchallenged simply because of its longevity, and whilst the class-list has been a common occurrence for the past 260 years, the growth and accessibility of CamSIS and online technology increasingly makes public notification of personal information a redundant process. Indeed, whilst data about individual students could still be used by Colleges looking to monitor and improve educational attainment, it is wrong to allow anyone and everyone to see the results of students without their permission. By ending the public publication of the class-list, this University would strengthen the bonds between itself and students with the knowledge that the data from their results is being used for the best possible purposes in improving students’ education.

Crucially, an argument repeatedly stated, and we’ve heard it today, in support of the class-list is that it creates healthy competition between students, their friends, and others who take their course; and Colleges using rankings tables as a symbol of success. I strongly refute this claim; in this case, there is no such thing as healthy competition. Rather, future job prospects, personal satisfaction, and indeed a thirst for knowledge all in themselves motivate students to perform. Students who read, revise, and study have an aim to achieve because of what their qualifications will allow them to do, not who it will allow them to beat. If anything, as we have also heard, the additional layer of stress caused by the belief that you are constantly being compared undermines student confidence. At the same time, comparing Colleges using this data alone hides the bigger funding inequalities and differences which exist across the institution. As such, it should be welcomed that all but one College sees no grave issue should the Tompkins table never be produced again.

This debate represents one aspect of the student-institution relationship, and an opportunity to listen to students. After all, it is our grade, and its public knowledge should be our choice.

In all, the public publication of the class-list should end, the process allowing anybody and everybody to view results relating to any one student should stop, and the growth of mutual support through handling personal information in a more conscientious manner should begin.

Mr J. J. Humbles (Peterhouse):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a finalist in Linguistics at Peterhouse. As far as I can gather, I will be in the last cohort of undergraduates whose classification will be displayed outside the Senate-House if this Report is accepted. I am grateful for this opportunity to make some comments, of the type that Mr Shah called procedural, on this Report.

To what extent, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, should student voices be heard in the administration of this University? I entirely accept the argument that, since [we as] undergraduates may find ourselves in this place for as little as three years, the administrative and academic staff of the Colleges and of the University as a whole have in a sense a greater ‘stake’ in its governance. (I am not proposing replacing Regent House with a parliament of undergraduates.) However, I believe that nowadays it is accepted, at least to some extent, that we should have the opportunity to be listened to at least.

Now, you are perhaps wondering why I am complaining about student voices not being heard at a Discussion on a Report which was undertaken at the initiation of a student petition. The reason is this: the argumentation in this Report is given over almost entirely to discussions of the opinions of and comments regarding the various constituent parts of the University, not to the opinions of the students – who are the most directly affected by the publication of the class-lists. I do not say that the opinions of and comments regarding the Colleges and the Faculty Boards are not worthy. Indeed, the arguments in the Note of Dissent concerning how this Report’s recommendations would impact on the maintenance of academic standards in those institutions strike me as particularly important, as has already been said. But it remains a great irony that that rarest of birds, a Report actually touching on a matter of interest to students of this University, still manages to make hardly any reference whatsoever to what those students think about it!

I can see, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, two such references in the Report. The first is a mention of the student campaign which precipitated this Report. In paragraph 2, the Report says that the:

‘petition, signed by c. 1,200 current and former students on behalf of the Our grade, our choice campaign ... asked the University to consider two options: (a) the discontinuation of publicly displayed class-lists or (b) a more flexible procedure for students to opt to have their names excluded from such lists’ (Reporter, 6426, 2015–16, p. 547).

The petition in the event attracted 1,303 signatures, slightly more than the Report recognizes, although I do not know whether any safeguards prevented non-students signing the petition. More troublingly, though, so far as I can ascertain, not only the wording of the petition, but indeed the very name of the campaign, is calling specifically for option (b) in the section that I have just quoted (which was also option (b) in the General Board’s consultation). Indeed, the title of the petition was ‘To allow students at the University of Cambridge to decide whether or not they appear on public University class-lists’1 and in the body of the petition, the wording was as follows:

‘We propose that the University offers a system that allows a student to ‘opt out’ of class lists. … we simply request that students are given the choice of whether or not they are on these class list [sic]: Our grade, our choice’ (ibid.).

The point I am making is that the option for ‘the discontinuation of publicly displayed class-lists’, which became (d) in the General Board’s consultation, and is what is being argued for today, is not even envisaged anywhere in the petition. Now, it is certainly true that option (d) was called for by some student voices at the time, and I have no doubt that (d) would be the preferred option for some students, particularly some in this room. The reason I emphasize this is that we cannot tell whether the signatories to this petition would have in fact preferred (d), but signed anyway because they thought that (b) ‘better than nothing’, or if they genuinely preferred (b).

The second reference in the Report to students is to the fact that CUSU were approached in this consultation by the General Board and the Council. The Report tells us in paragraph 3 that:

‘Following consultation with students, it is the opinion of CUSU that it should be for each student to determine with whom to share her or his result’ (Reporter, 6426, 2015–16, p. 547).

Two problems with this propose themselves to my mind, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: firstly, that the wording is at best ambiguous. I believe that could be read either way, that is, in favour of (b) or (d). It would be useful to know a bit more detail on what CUSU actually said to the General Board and Council during the consultation. The other problem is of course the age-old argument about the extent to which CUSU really represents undergraduates. I will not rehearse these arguments here; I am sure we are all familiar with this theme. It is true that the Report claims that CUSU consulted with students, but I am not entirely clear on when this was or what form that consultation took.

In fact, the only consultation on this topic by CUSU that I have found – and I should love to be put right if I am wrong on this point – occurred in November 2008, when CUSU published the results of a consultation with the student body on the publication of the class-lists; it is still available on their website, in the Campaigns Archive section.2 I pick out two pieces of data from this document which touch on what I have been discussing. The first is the responses to this question ‘Every student should be able to have their name removed from a public class-list without specifying a reason’, which I interpret as broadly aligning with option (b). 38% of the respondents to this question Strongly Agreed, and a further 32% Agreed, but not strongly, for a total 70% approval of option (b), which to remind you was to retain public class-lists but with a strengthened opt-out system. The other is the question ‘I like the tradition of class-lists publication outside Senate-House’. Here, 34% Strongly Agreed and 32% Agreed, which I interpret as two-thirds of the students of this University rejecting option (d), which is the option envisaged in this Report. The consultation incidentally also includes dozens of long-form responses detailing specific opinions; I recommend it as interesting reading to all invested in this topic. Admittedly, this consultation is by now long out of date and probably everyone consulted in it has now left this place; and there are methodological problems with it. But I would say that it still gives a better picture of the nuances of student opinion than a single petition – which is what initiated this Report – possibly could.

I conclude therefore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, by calling for a debate on this topic with a much broader scope than this Report, which not only solicits opinion directly from undergraduates – and I mean all undergraduates, not just the ones who have turned up today – rather than via the charade of democracy that is CUSU, but that also considers other potential responses to the petition than those which have been envisaged in this Report. (One which I found in the 2008 consultation was to ‘just publish the firsts’, which might well be a happy compromise.)

Dr M. Moreno Figueroa (UTO in Sociology, Fellow of Downing College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I would like to support this motion and the abolition of the publication of class-lists. My interest is pedagogical, as a teacher interested in learning processes and working with students to develop their ideas, their thinking, their critical capacity, and ability to engage with the world in a variety of ways, these class-lists have no relevance whatsoever, but on the contrary, place unnecessary stress and open a space for shaming and competition that has nothing to do with learning, creating community, or even supporting a collegial intellectual spirit.

The class-lists seem to appear as a site of shame and misguided pride, misguided privilege. Many more discussions we need to have about how adequate the class classification is in itself, and how adequate are the exams or long essays or lectures and supervisions, and this keeps happening and many of us academics are committed to making the learning process an exciting one. It is so dispiriting for me to have students worrying about their marks, about wanting to achieve a mark and not necessarily to enjoy the learning process itself, their enhanced capacity to do something, think in a particular way, understand something deeply in a way that was not possible for them before.

I know through my experience that learning takes many ways and a mark is just that, a mark – an indication, a possibility and not the totality of anybody. Having seen many students grow through their degrees, open their minds, mature as young adults, is a privilege which I’m very satisfied to share. Seeing them reducing their experience in such a limited way by focusing their energy on the classification achieved is heart-breaking. I do understand that it is a signal that can help in the future, but it is certainly not the only thing, and certainly not the most important, but what kinds of human beings they are and can be.

The publication of these lists feeds into this culture that distracts us from what the learning experience is for, and that feeds into a personalistic project that prizes and punishes people. I would very much like to support students in finding their own routes, their voices and trajectories in a more supportive environment and not in a comparative, competitive one.

Ms C. M. Chorley (CUSU Women’s Officer):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my name is Charlotte Chorley and I am the current Women’s Officer for the Cambridge University Students’ Union. I am incredibly proud to be working at this institution in the capacity that I do; an institution that has educated the tradition-breakers of Rosalind Franklin, Zadie Smith, Sylvia Plath, and Jane Goodall; an institution that broke centuries of tradition in 1948 when it allowed women to become full members and study alongside other male students. I think it is important to remember that those same traditions have been created within living memory.

The University of Cambridge has, to me, always been one to break tradition rather than maintain it; it has always been proud of its commitment to supporting all individuals, regardless of background or identity; it has been a global leader in both thinking and practice alike.

The Discussion today, regarding the publication of class-lists, is another opportunity to demonstrate that commitment to disruption and innovation. For too long, public class-lists have promoted toxic competition at the cost of student welfare, adding unnecessary and frankly damaging pressure to students who are already partaking in one of the most academically rigorous courses in the world.

For too long, public class-lists have presented their results as based on merit, with little regard for the fact that Colleges are not equal in resource or capacity, or for the fact that women and non-binary students, and students of colour at this institution are consistently more likely to do worse than their white, male counterparts. Indeed, statistics from last year’s History Tripos reveal that 91% of firsts in Part I went to male candidates, with only 2 out of 23 firsts going to female candidates. This is despite the fact that there were almost an equal number of women taking the Part I exams as men. This trend is echoed across many other subjects, and to present these class-lists as an accurate measure of talent or capability is an insult, demonstrating an almost willful ignorance of the structural biases that pervade the curriculum here at Cambridge. The fact that these lists are being defended primarily by Colleges at the top of the tables demonstrates that these are not a meritocracy.

That is the debate we should be having here, not whether we should preserve an outdated, unnuanced model of public shaming which poses risks to the most vulnerable in our student community, as has been discussed, as well as those who flourish under the academic pressure pushed upon students. Indeed, if I may, I’d like to talk about a friend of mine who studied with me at Pembroke – let’s call him William. Now William was what you may call a ‘typical’ Cambridge student: privately educated, incredibly confident and self-assured, and very successful in Part I. He was predicted high firsts, and both College and Faculty built him up to succeed since he thrived in the academic environment around him. When he strolled down to Senate-House to find out his results in June, not having decided to opt out, he didn’t find his name with the other first candidates. Instead, in front of his cohort and other students, he missed his predicted grade and achieved a II.i. I watched William crumble in front of me – his expectations, which had been built up by the Cambridge system, broken beyond repair and his sense of self and success ruined. People laughed at his surprising failure. Public humiliation is not a reason to maintain tradition. The rhetoric of ‘healthy competition’ is not a reason either. In fact, there is no argument to keep class-lists that can even come close to the arguments to protect student wellbeing across the spectrum and which does not acknowledge the falsity of meritocracy we are told exists.

We do not need grades to be paraded on Senate-House for transparency; as has been discussed, provisions are in place to allow Colleges to access the information in a way that doesn’t jeopardize the mental health of students, and in a way that, hopefully, will highlight that some students and Colleges do better than others because of inequality in funding, resource, and support as opposed to inadequacy.

We do not need public class-lists in the name of tradition or community. Cambridge may be old, but it has always opened its doors to change and progress. Perhaps, if we do care so much about tradition, maybe it is time to start a new one.

Ms P. Mensah (CUSU President):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, my name is Priscilla Mensah, and I am the President of the Cambridge University Students’ Union. I speak as the primary representative of 22,000 Cambridge students, with the largest democratic mandate a CUSU president has had in the last decade. I say this explicitly because I am frustrated and exasperated by having to defend myself and to argue in the face of often talented but still self-appointed student journalists, and also in the face of those who say that CUSU does not represent students. I do believe that I have more votes and, indeed, more of a democratic mandate to be here speaking in favour of the abolition of public class-lists than anyone else. I am here precisely because Cambridge students have indeed asked me to be. Cambridge students have asked their Students’ Union to campaign for the abolition of public class-lists, and I am here to urge the Regent House to hear and accept the request which Cambridge students have put to us, most recently on 15 November at CUSU Council.

I might also take a moment to remark on my personal experiences, because no elected representative at CUSU can detach their very own experiences of Cambridge from their motivations for becoming an elected officer. I was hospitalized the day before my first-year exams, having pushed myself for the very purpose of succeeding within the paradigm that public class-lists dictate. This means that I too agonized over what might be my position within this public and humiliating system. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for too many students this is not just a matter of opting out, unforeseen emergencies fully disqualify the arguments that students might simply opt out of the system around the time of the beginning of examinations. Many students here today have shared their experiences of class-lists, how it has impacted their wellbeing, sense of self-worth, or the student experience of their friends. Today, I would also like to address a traditionalist argument that, in 2016, smacks of condescension not worthy of our institution and the excellence on which we pride ourselves.

It has been said that the public class-lists tradition represents for Cambridge students a rite of passage into the adult world in which professional performance is publicly measured. As a corollary of this argument, it has been suggested that those calling for the end of this tradition might just need to ‘grow up’ or mature. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I hope every person in this room, regardless of position, can reject this argument which seeks to suggest that, despite Cambridge being one of the most selective institutions in our world, our students do not understand the simple matter of choice, autonomy, or how they might want their information to be shared and disseminated.

The students here today, the 1,300 students who signed the Our grade, our choice petition, the elected representatives of the 31 Colleges who voted at CUSU Council (and I am speaking to the former speaker), who voted with an overwhelming majority on 9 November 2015 and all those students here today who are participating in this debate, understand what choice and autonomy mean, and it is their choice which must supersede the continuation of any practice or tradition considered counter to their wellbeing and academic success.

Though our Higher Education landscape might be changing, the principle of student choice remains a solid, core principle and expectation of the Higher Education experience. In fact, within the most recent HE White Paper Success as a Knowledge Economy, the word ‘choice’ itself is mentioned 72 times. At the root of this Discussion is the question: why must Cambridge students, unlike any other students in the UK or the world, have no say or choice in with whom their grades are shared? It is clear to the Students’ Union, despite arguments to the contrary, that there is no clearer demonstration of Cambridge students being acknowledged and considered ‘adults’ than the University’s discontinuation of a system which robs students of their choice.

Of course, I recognize that, for some, the public class-lists tradition might be enjoyable. Yet the enjoyment of some, should not, I believe, compromise the representation of the most vulnerable students at our institution who have been harmed by the system. This is, in fact, my job and the job of the Students’ Union: to consistently platform the voices of the few who might otherwise be silenced within the structures of our institution. Thus, for those here today who have come to speak in favour of the continuation of class-lists, I simply ask – how can you – in light of the harm it has caused, whether that be to one, or one thousand Cambridge students? This is a direct question, but it sits within a much broader question, which is diffuse, for our University on how we create an environment within which students feel empowered to reach their full potential. During my tenure as President, I have met 24 Senior Tutors, countless departments, and academics, and I know that the public nature of class-lists underpins a culture of rivalry which flies in the face of the collegial principles on which the University of Cambridge is based. If these have been the observations of the Students’ Union in dialogue with College academics and departments in the last year, I believe we can make some clear assumptions about the trickle-down effects of a culture of stress, pressure, and competition within the student body. And Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I want to be clear that this culture of pressure is not a feature of the Cambridge student experience which pushes our students towards excellence; it is the hunger our students have for learning, and their ambitions for the future, which drives their hard work.

This year, the University of Cambridge was compelled to initiate a Working Group on Student Workload at which we ascertained that the average University student in the United Kingdom undertakes 30 hours of work per week, and the average Cambridge student undertakes between 48 and 60 hours of work per week. As members of the working group, we were charged with uncovering what might be the causes of damaging student work practices – practices which caused 43% of respondents to CUSU’s ‘Big Cambridge Survey’ to report that studying at the University had negatively impacted their mental health. One explicit recommendation of the Workload Working Group was to eradicate the features of the Cambridge experience which encourage an unhealthy work ethic within the student body: the eradication of public class-lists was identified as part of the solution.

Thus, as my last point, I want to plead with members of the University community to understand that great work is not achieved through the processes of comparison – or potential humiliation. Academic excellence is achieved through the recognition of Cambridge students as equal participants in the undertaking and outcomes of their learning. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, that starts with genuine choice.

I have spoken to Heads of House who are in full support, though they could not be here today. I have spoken to academics, University staff, and senior University officials who are in full support. Last and certainly not least, I have spoken to Cambridge students who are in full support of the abolition of public class-lists. I therefore urge the Regent House to accept these proposals, for students now, for students in the years to come, and for the very advancement of the University of Cambridge and its global standing as a progressive institution.

Mr T. A. Fairclough (Gonville and Caius College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, firstly, I would like to thank everybody who turned up for this Discussion today and to the University officials for organizing it, no matter which side of the debate you are on. Personally I am glad to be having the debate, and to have views on both sides.

It’s the notion about the debate that I would like to address in my speech. I actually, unlike the majority of speakers, am neither for or against the abolition of class-lists; I don’t feel I know enough about student psychology or anxiety to make a decision either way. To be honest there are more important things that I would do than abolish class-lists, I don’t care that much either way. However, I think that an adequate process ought to have been undertaken and I think this is something that might have been lost here. This may be because of the reasons given in the Joint Report of the Council and the General Board on the public display of class-lists. In short, these issues are, firstly, the petition received by the General Board’s Education Committee had c. 1,200 signatures (we have heard 1,300 today) of current and former students attached. This is a very small proportion of the members of the University and of living alumni, of which, I am sure we will be told, there are hundreds of thousands. Even if we accept for current purposes that every single one of those signing felt very strongly about the abolition of class-lists in their entirety, the number really is not that significant. I am relatively certain that, with the right organization, any others could find that many students or living alumni to sign any type of petition, whether that’s for the abolition of classifications full-stop, or the abolition of exams or more American-style reports, or the abolition of the collegiate system which has inherent inequalities within it, or the abolition of gowns or academic dress – I am sure we could find 1,300 people around the University or graduates to sign that. It’s just too small a number.

The second point I would make is that in paragraph 2 of the Report it was noted that Oxford discontinued with the public display of class-lists in 2009. It has been said here that Oxford and Cambridge are the only two [universities] left and Oxford’s public display of class-lists should go too. I don’t really see how what Oxford does gives some a priori force for abolition. This is for three reasons: [(a)] Oxford, whilst similar, is a different university, despite what the media seems to think. We have no reason to follow suit because of the similarities between the two institutions; (b), which links to (a), Oxford has plenty of things – sub fusc, for example – that Cambridge doesn’t have, and vice versa, and I think that’s good and recognized; and (c), if we follow the logic of giving weight to Oxford decisions, then surely it just becomes a race to do whatever the other is doing – each just follows what the other is doing for no independent reason, which corroborates my overall point 2, which is the idea that no-one else does this or would do it. I can speak from personal experience at the University of Reading that lots more do it; there was a class-list with our names in order of classification, and there is no opt-out at all, regardless of whether you feel anxious. I think there should be, but that’s not the case. Also if you do the Bar Finals in the United Kingdom, which 3,000 people do a year, you do get a class-list, it’s not in halls, it’s published in The Times and you have absolutely no control whatsoever over it, you are not even told when it’s going to happen, you just find out one day your name is in The Times with your grade next to everyone else’s. Now I don’t say this to say that if everyone else does it, we should therefore do it. What I am saying is, again, there is a process issue here, and the process issue is that by presenting the case that nobody else does this apart from us, then it’s quite frankly misleading. People may look at this debate and say, wait a minute, if everyone else does it, why should we? That’s fine, but other people do do it, and so it’s false to make that argument.

Thirdly, and this point was touched on by Jake Humbles, the General Board did consult with CUSU and the Faculty Boards, etc., and the overwhelming feeling was to abolish class-lists in one form or another. That’s fine, I take that on board. I am not here to discuss the internal workings that Colleges have, etc., but I do have to say that I do not feel that CUSU, whilst representative and which must surely have the highest mandate of any student body elected at the University, I do not think that this is the perfect representation of general opinion. I think that is inherent in democracy. That’s no criticism at all. I do base this impulse on some informed surveys that would show the disparity between the for and against camps, the general turn-out in elections, and so on and so forth. It seems to me that a far more democratic way of enacting change would be to have a popular referendum of students, to hear the arguments for and against being given properly by the University. There are genuine issues on both sides and again, I am not necessarily for or against, and I don’t think it’s important whether I am or I’m not in this speech. Some of the issues brought out by the abolition side have been very forceful and have really made me think about it and they deserve to have a proper popular public airing before a full vote. If the matter is those requesting changes by Our grade, our choice, then it should be made by all the students who will be affected by the change, not a small section of that very large group, and actually we don’t know how big that section is, on the basis that it could have been 1,299 alumni who signed and one resident student. Obviously I am not saying it is, obviously it’s not, but the point is that we don’t know. It seems to me that by having alumni involved, we have really skewed the results and actually a full and proper vote should take place, and so I don’t recommend the Report to the Regent House, I don’t deny the Report to the Regent House; what I think is that the Regent House should hold a vote for students and we should listen to what students think and take that into consideration, which hasn’t been done here, especially with all the misleading information being given to students.

Mr N. E. Taylor (Churchill College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the word choice this afternoon has been said 253 times. In many speeches, choice has been the central theme. And we should have choice; indeed the opening speech by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education was about choice

How is there a choice if there is only one option? The abolition of public class-lists gives no choice; we can’t choose to have our grades put up if class-lists have been removed. If there was a much easier opt-out system, then there would be a choice, and that is what the initial petition was for.

There are a few points throughout [on which I would like to comment]. One point was made earlier about class-lists somehow being elitist. I don’t really understand how class-lists can be elitist when they are the result of people’s grades; by definition, surely that’s a meritocracy. The persuasive argument made by the President of Student Minds Cambridge seemed to be about scrapping exams and scrapping work, and that’s an honourable cause, certainly for an undergraduate, but it’s not about class-lists. Then a point has been made just recently about 12,000 students and Bar students, not a democracy at all. Finally, and this is the crux, what this comes down to, we are being told there is a choice, when there simply is no choice because there is only one option.

Mr H. J. Gower (Magdalene College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I’d just like to quickly address some of these ideas that the Our grade, our choice movement is the primary reason why we’re here. Well, actually, that brought the issue to attention and was taken to CUSU Council where JCR members, JCR presidents who are acting representatives of democracy on behalf of their students at their Colleges, universally voted for the class-lists to be abolished. There is student support for this, it’s how we work as an institution, and the idea that CUSU doesn’t represent students is fundamentally flawed considering how many of the Colleges are still currently represented by CUSU at this time, and were represented during the vote in CUSU Council.

I’d just sort of quickly like to say that the tradition itself is a changing tradition and a tradition which is only getting more problematic for students. This is basically because of the increase of connectivity and accessibility the internet has provided for the publication of class-lists. Class-lists, until, well, 1997 the University of Cambridge Reporter didn’t publish them online, but until 2012 the first online link that I can find which actually works that shows the classes online, you weren’t able to go on the internet and find out what someone back in 1998, 1989, got from their University degree. However, now you can. On my very brief research I was not able to find the past class-list for myself; however I was able to easily access all of the very recent ones. This is an environment which is getting more accessible to the average person on the street and secondly I would also like to make a key point about work evaluation.

At work, the people who evaluate you and the people who look at your results and say ‘This is your target’, are a very select group of people. What class-lists do is enable anyone in a social environment to judge you based on a number, knowing nothing else about you other than your number. This is a fundamentally flawed concept because it makes the evaluation of the self entirely based in a public sphere. It makes you worth what other people say about you. How can you say being Cambridge students who all come here and debate and try and push people forward and actually spend an awful lot of our time independently working, that the only way we should believe ourselves is by a level that people can twist to their own ideas, one only has to read the Daily Mail to work out how easy it is to twist a – well, not going to talk about certain events on Jesus Green – but how easy it is to twist an activity that occurs at many other universities into something which shows students at Cambridge as being the worst kind of youth in this country. These are ways that public fact can be twisted to present a bad view of the people that go to this University and can have a negative effect on the students that we are all here so passionately defending. Why should we allow some man or some independent party to be able to take public lists and make a decision on how our University runs and the people that go to it and evaluate the ability and the skill of the Colleges and the students who go there. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.

Mr H. A. T. Jones (alumnus of Selwyn College, member of assistant staff at Downing College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the issue of choice is I think fundamental to both parties in this room; from those represented, there seems to be a divide. I would like to suggest that in my own case anxiety would have been much greater had my name not been published on the class-lists. The purpose that the publication of the class-lists out here serves really is for current students to go and see how their friends have done without the need to ask them. When students, such as myself in the past, obviously, perform less well than expected, it is for that person’s friends to go and see them and to say, ‘Oh, I’m shocked about what happened’, that would make them more anxious, as indeed it would have done in my case. I cannot say honestly what would have happened had my name not been there, but my friends knowing how well, how not well I had achieved, conscientiously kept quiet about this, as they had done for other students. This concept of shame – that people who perhaps come lower down in the class-lists are being shamed by their fellow students – well, is that a result of the class-lists or is that as a result of classes at all? You are not going to be saved from your peers knowing your results if they are not published. They will ask you; they will come and say ‘How well did you do?’ And yes, you can lie to them, or you can say, ‘Well, actually, I got a third’. If they are going to shame you for that, then down on them, because they are not people who deserve to be here frankly. Shame is not going to be removed by the class-lists [not being published], nor is anxiety, and the choice that we need is the choice to have your name published in public for your peers to see, because frankly a member of the public who does not know any one of these names sees these names and sees people they don’t know. You can see the names of people you don’t know on any memorial in the country. You know. That is irrelevant. It is your peers who know you who are actually going to judge you and to not judge you. And the choice is yours or should be yours to have names up for your peers to see or to keep it separate and have them ask you about it later. Because they will.

Ms P. Ellis-Logan (CUSU/GU Welfare and Rights Officer):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, members of the Regent House, my name is Poppy Ellis Logan and I am the Welfare and Rights Officer of the Cambridge University Students’ Union and the Graduate Union. I train and represent the Welfare Officers of all affiliated JCRs and MCRs, who in turn represent the students at their Colleges. I would like to clarify that, in addition to the CUSU Council in November, my year-long campaign against class-lists has also been based on consultation with these democratically elected Welfare Officers.

I urge the Regent House to accept these proposed reforms. My reason for this is that the public publication of class-lists directly jeopardizes student welfare, and therefore should be discontinued.

The concerns that students have about class-lists are wide-ranging. It has already been raised by other speakers that class-lists cause unnecessary stress, which causes damage to students’ mental health at a very difficult part of the academical year. For the benefit of the Regent House, I am going to explain this experience in a little more depth.

Mental health is a national issue of public concern, and is gaining increased levels of attention, not least within student populations. Recently, the NUS have published the findings of a survey which suggests that four out of every five students are likely to have experienced symptoms of mental health issues within the past year.

It is well documented that low self-esteem is a primary trigger of mental health issues. The primary triggers for low self-esteem include, to put it simply, discrimination and oppression, negative thinking patterns, such as comparing oneself to others, developing high standards for yourself that you can’t achieve, feeling that you don’t live up to other people’s expectations, abrupt changes in circumstances, isolation, and unduly high-pressured environments. These all relate directly to the rights of students, and, untackled, lead to perfectionism and low self-esteem, which, in turn, can and do lead to other, more serious mental health conditions. For more information about this, please visit Public class-lists contribute directly to each one of the above causes of mental health issues. I will now address each in turn.

The first trigger I mentioned was discrimination and oppression. With reference to discrimination and oppression: this University is still inherently oppressive. The sheer numbers of students intermitting or failing to complete their degree due to disability illustrate the ableism endemic in the University. Equally, the satisfaction of students with Specific Learning Difficulties reported in the 2015 National Students’ Survey was almost 10% lower than that of non-disabled students. The oppression and discrimination that this University perpetuates is rarely acknowledged.

The ongoing failure to acknowledge these problems is not due to a lack of evidence, but because the evidence we have is not properly analysed. The University uses the term BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) to mix the results of ethnically black students with those of all non-white students, thereby concealing the disparity in attainment of ethnically black students to the rest of the student body. The University’s recent Equality and Diversity reports provide a useful example of how this works. Roughly 27% of Chinese students received firsts last year compared with 8% of black students. Despite this, the average attainment for BME students was recorded as higher than it was for white students, completely masking the gap for black students in particular.

Not only does the public publication of class-lists reiterate marks which appear to discriminate against certain groups of students, it also actively embodies yet another oppressive structure to be found within the institution, by indirectly discriminating against students who have changed the name by which they are referred to.

The second trigger was negative thinking patterns, such as comparing yourself to others. The public display of class-lists inherently encourages comparisons amongst the student body; one cannot find one’s own results without searching amongst, and comparing oneself to, the results of all of one’s peers. Negative thinking patterns also include developing high standards for yourself that you can’t achieve.

The presentation of the class-lists system entirely ignores the fact that gaining admission to this University and seeing through a degree here is, in and of itself, an incredible achievement and requires academic excellence on the individual’s behalf a priori. Indeed, we are compared only to our peers, and, if we fall in the lower half of a class-list, we are deemed ‘not good enough’, regardless of effort or circumstance. We are held to an unrealistically high expectation, which is, as mentioned, yet another causative factor for a mental health deterioration; it is literally impossible for some people to get higher than a third due to the way in which the marks in some Triposes are given, and yet this statistical ploy is completely ignored in the blanket publication of everyone’s results.

This explicitly public display of average, below average, or even unsatisfactory, attainment does nothing to help the anxiety felt by many diligent students who have, in the past, been used to coming top of their classes without inputting much effort. Again, this abrupt change of circumstance and sense of not living up to other people’s expectations contributes to the proportions of students struggling to maintain good mental health.

The public display of class-lists perpetuates a culture of competition. Students are not encouraged to learn from each other, but to desperately avoid any discussion on the subjects with their peers, lest they let something that might give them the upper hand in an exam slip. In the run-up to exams, students are encouraged to spend their time studying in the library alone, not sharing their notes, not discussing work with peers, not working together in case their ideas get stolen. This perpetuates an isolationist attitude and discourages collaboration, and is yet another known causal factor for poor mental health. Finding such an environment hard to cope with only worsens the situation by increasing the students’ susceptibility to feelings of low self-worth.

One’s examination results are intensely personal. As has been described already, and as will be self-evident to most in this room, students work incredibly hard in preparation for their exams, and the fruits of that effort are laid bare for the world to see, often before the student in question has been able to see them themselves. This removes personal consent from the equation. This adds another source of pressure to the student body, which is the final trigger for the cycle of low self-esteem and deteriorating mental health that I mentioned earlier; regardless of how much work and time they invest in their exam preparation, regardless of any extenuating circumstances which might affect how they perform in those precious few hours of their lives, their success or failure (as defined only in relation to all of their peers surrounding them) will be displayed to the world as a measure of their value.

Having explained how class-lists directly jeopardize students’ mental health, I must make clear that the structures in place to accommodate for students with mental health issues are also inadequate.

The University is aware that many students report extreme anxiety and distress at the thought of their grade being published, as has been extensively discussed here. It is indeed possible for students to request their name to be removed from class-lists, provided that they can present clinical evidence that they have a mental health condition which is aggravated by the class-lists. At present, mental healthcare services are stretched with very long waiting lists. There are students at this University who are being turned away from even the waiting lists themselves, because they are over two years long. There are students who are being told to move away from Cambridge if they want access to mental health support from the NHS before their degree finishes. The requirement to provide diagnostic evidence for anxiety, distress, or a mental health condition which is aggravated by the prospect of class-lists is often impossible to fulfil, particularly within a short time-span. Where these mental health conditions are ongoing, this amounts to disability discrimination.

The publication of the lists gives rise to a decline in students’ mental health. If nothing else, this seems economically inefficient, given how heavily the University is investing in projects that seek to improve the mental welfare and resilience of the student population. Preserving a tradition that works directly against the goals of the University seems nonsensical to say the least.

Finally, I would like to make the following observations. Firstly, it is foolish to argue that class-lists have value as an incentive to encourage students to perform to the best of their ability. Students at Cambridge are characterized by their desire to pursue thorough study for the sake of learning alone. The commitment to study that Cambridge requires from students does not need reinforcing by class-lists in order to ensure that students study as much as can be deemed healthy. Secondly, the argument that the loss of class-lists will cause too much confusion to be worthwhile seems to me to be feeble, and to undermine the intelligence of the academics who are a part of this institution. As the Yours, Cambridge campaign emphasized, we are an institution whose thoughts and ideas are expected to change the world, as much now as in the past. The need for this Discussion by senior members of the University who oppose progress, most important of all things, in the face of tradition, would be depressing, but the argument that changing something for the sake of students’ welfare is not worth the confusion that such a change might bring is frankly embarrassing.

I urge the Regent House to accept these proposed reforms.

Mr A. J. P. North (Gonville and Caius College):

‘Because half-a-dozen grasshoppers … make the field ring with their importunate chink … pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.’

Why do I start with this quote? Well, it’s always worth putting student campaigns into their wider context.

This change was brought about by the Our grade, our choice campaign supported by CUSU and an astonishing 1,200 current and former students. Now, to put that into context as the CUSU President helpfully did, there are currently twenty-two thousand students at Cambridge, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of alumni. So we can already see that these arguments based on a corpus of student up-swell against class-lists would be false.

Ultimately, class-lists are not – as some would argue – about shaming of students, but more a physical manifestation of the openness and accountability and democracy on which the governance of this University functions. Not many universities would allow their students to have open debate in this format against changes that go on. Cambridge is unique in this format, that it has a direct democracy with Regent House in this way.

When the University admits – asks its members to allow students to be admitted to degrees, as touched on by Mr Shah – it is nonsense that those who are being asked have no idea who it is and what the classifications are. The University, it seems, has taken a mile from the inch that was given to it in the report of Our grade, our choice. Should we be surprised that Colleges and Schools would want to limit the amount of public information as to how they are performing? It is in their interest to conceal information from students or potential students so there’s less accountability in the event of declining standards. This ties into the reasons Colleges would want to abolish the Tompkins table – while some would see it as a motivation for growth and the long-term trends about the quality of teaching, others would not quite see that. And the point was only mentioned at the beginning, but I think it’s reasonably here because Dr Cowley is still joining us, that the Maths Tripos has the unique tradition, I believe in the world, of the reading of the results from the gallery and then distribution like confetti. Apart from the openness and democracy I have discussed beforehand, are these traditions to be sacrificed at the altar of CUSU activism and Faculties hiding their accountability? This whole raft of measures ultimately comes down to the University using the student body as a way of moving into a less accountable stage in terms of its governance, and I would implore anyone who is generally concerned about the governance of the University to oppose the removal of class-lists.

Ms S. A. Buck (Emmanuel College and incoming CUSU/GU Welfare and Rights Officer):

I’m a third year at Emmanuel College and I study Psychology and I’m the incoming CUSU/GU Welfare and Rights Officer. Last year I wrote a widely-shared comment article for the TCS about the Our grade, our choice campaign after it was launched, and it was the most shared article on the TCS comments section for weeks. Because a lot of the points which I raised in that article have already been spoken about for the abolition of class-lists, what I am going to do instead is refute the points of why we should keep them, because, from my perspective, there doesn’t seem to be a reason for keeping them.

So, firstly, the tradition argument. I’d like to thank Cambridge for not always keeping with tradition because, as a woman, I actually wouldn’t be here if we kept going with tradition all the time. Also, since class-lists were brought in, we’ve had the Human Rights Act, we’ve had the Data Protection Act, we’ve had the introduction of the internet: things are changing, and we don’t need class-lists any more. They don’t serve a purpose and actually they might be violating our rights to ownership of our personal data and our right to privacy. Things have changed more generally in terms of things like mental health, such as with the mental health user movement, which has led to people who have mental health problems having more say in their treatment. My point is that people are generally having more say in the services that are provided to them, and education is a service that is being provided to us, that we are paying for. Since it’s a service being provided to me, I feel like I should have a say in its process.

Moreover, it just feels like there is a disparity between what we are taught here and what’s practiced in this University. For example, at Cambridge I’ve learnt about ways in which stress damages the brain; we’ve covered stress in the brain in my degree three times now, as well as human rights and privacy. I feel like the University should start preaching what it practices, otherwise we’ll continue to question the system [because we are taught to question]. So I feel that the tradition argument doesn’t have weight any more; things are changing and Cambridge needs to not just keep up with the changes, but actually make them themselves. Because we are a research University, we are revolutionary, I feel like we shouldn’t just be following suit all the time. We are one of the last universities to abolish class-lists.

In terms of the number of people who signed the campaign abolishing the class-lists [since several speakers have criticized this] 1,300 is still a large number. As people have said, there are some people who don’t actually care; it’s not that they want to keep the class-lists, they just don’t care about the issue. But there are still a large number of people who do care, and 1,300 is a large number. Given that the signing took place in exam time last year, and as we know you get a really small turn-out in exam term for general campaigns, and it wasn’t even publicized through official mediums, it was just on Facebook, it’s actually quite impressive the number of signatures it did get.

In terms of the community argument (an argument I find interesting), firstly, you’re going to find out on the computer what your results are anyway; most people don’t go to look at their results [on the class-lists], it might just be people from the Maths Tripos who want to find out. You’ve just got an extra fear that people will see your results [with you at the class-lists] and that will make you less likely to go and look at them with your friends. Also, it can be a social environment. So, firstly, with your friends, you could find out your results on the computer together, and give each other support that way. You don’t need to go to Senate-House. Finding out your results doesn’t have to be public; it’s just between you and your friends – people you’re close to. Also, your friends, if they’re good friends, they’re not going to ask you, ‘Oh, how did you do? Did you get that first you were aiming for?’ They’re not going to ask you that. They’re going to text you or speak to you and say, ‘I hope your results were OK. If they weren’t, they’re not the most important thing’, things like that. They’re not going to pressure you into shouting about your results or make you feel bad about them.

The issue with public class-lists is that everyone can see them, including people from your College. I don’t know about other Colleges, but at Emmanuel they’re all put up in Front Court and our names are highlighted, and that’s up for the whole of grad week, so everyone from your College can see your grades, including, not just your friends, but people you don’t know very well in College. Some departments also put class-lists up. My point is, it’s not just strangers and your friends seeing the class-lists, it’s actually these people in the middle that are key, who vaguely know you, enough to judge you, or at least, make you feel like they’re judging you, whether they are or not doesn’t even matter. It’s people at your College and on your course. With the Maths Tripos, wherein visiting the class-lists is a social occasion, I do think it’s a problem if you’re only mixing with people on results day – that’s more like the problem. Rather, you could be seeing people all the way through your degree.

In terms of the accountability argument, you could even have a list instead that had just percentages and not names, saying for example, ‘20% of people got a first in Psychology’ (which is my degree). That’s still accountable; it shows that it’s not that 100% of people have got firsts.

The current class-lists system doesn’t work, that’s clear enough. As people have said, it’s really difficult to access the mental health services to get people to give written consent [to take someone off the public class-list] – you have to go through this whole process, through your doctor, get people to sign it and say ‘That’s a good enough reason to get your name taken off’. If anything, it should be a tick-box, it should be easy, and it’s just currently not easy. We’re not even told about a deadline of when to do so. When I applied I wasn’t actually told there would be class-lists. I don’t think people come to Cambridge for the tradition, like, ‘Oh, I really want to go to a University with a class-list’. I don’t think that happens. And I think if the opt-out system was easier, the majority of people would just opt out. It’s not just people at the bottom; it’s people who might be aiming for a first too. I just don’t think anyone would want to put themselves out there on a class-list; I think the majority of people would opt out. You might just end up with three names on a class-list and that’s not very useful, so if you want to do it first with a really easy opt-out system, then fine, but I don’t think it’s going to work. You might as well just abolish the class-lists entirely.

Finally, with regards the argument for keeping class-lists: increasing preparedness for life, so that we’re not mollycoddled – our personal information is not revealed publicly in any other situation. My GCSE results were not put up, my A-level results were not put up. Employers don’t put up ‘Progress of the week’ or what degree people got when they arrive, that doesn’t happen. With doctors, there’s confidentiality between patient and doctor, and there was uproar with Facebook last year when they were using people’s public information. I just think it’s simply unacceptable to violate people’s right to privacy [as public class-lists currently do], especially since the opt-out process is long, stressful, and requires a reasonable enough reason to opt out.

To sum up, hopefully my points will leave nothing in the opposing side that says we should keep class-lists: the tradition argument doesn’t stand up; the community argument doesn’t stand up – you can find out your results with your friends in a comforting environment anyway, and you’re going to support each other anyway. It’s to do with people you don’t know very well seeing your results, so it’s not about your friends finding out, and they will help you. And our personal information is not revealed publicly in any other way, so I hope that Cambridge practices what it preaches and abolishes class-lists, or at least makes it really easy to opt out – and then when most people opt out, it’ll have to abolish class-lists entirely.

Mr R. W. Cashman (CUSU Education Officer):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am the Education Officer of Cambridge University Students’ Union. I am a member of the General Board, the General Board’s Education Committee, and the Senior Tutors’ Standing Committee on Education. I have seen the proposal we are discussing here today progress through a range of fora over the last year. I am pleased that these discussions have reached a stage where we have before us this Joint Report of the Council and the General Board.

I urge the Regent House to accept these proposed reforms. Over the course of the past year, the University has seen a petition, signed by over 1,200 students and former students, calling for changes to the system of class-lists. This petition, organized by the independent Our grade, our choice campaign, resulted in the General Board and its Education Committee instituting a consultation of Colleges and University institutions. Student representatives were involved in formulating the responses of those institutions. The overwhelming, and near unanimous response, was that there was no reason for the continued public publication of class-lists. Making it easier for students to opt-out of appearing on class-lists will create additional administrative work, and would ultimately result in incomplete lists which will serve no useful purpose. The findings of the consultation made clear that the preferred change was for the abolition of public publication of class-lists. In this academical year CUSU Council, a body made up of JCR, MCR, Faculty, and Autonomous Campaign representatives, passed policy calling for an end to the public publication of class-lists. CUSU believes that the current system of class-lists denies students privacy with their results, and is damaging to the welfare of many students. CUSU has previously campaigned for, and been instrumental in, changes to practices by which students receive their exam results.

The concerns students and others have about class-lists are wide-ranging: class-lists deny the existence of a culture in which students have choice and privacy with who they share their examination results with. Class-lists neglect to consider the broader context behind a student’s achievement. They are harmful to those students who do not wish to be identified by the name the University has on record for them. They cause unnecessary stress, and are damaging to students’ mental health at what is already a very difficult part of the academical year. There is also a real sense among students that the process, as it currently stands, of opting-out of appearing on a class-list is a difficult and bureaucratic one. These concerns should take precedence over the unsubstantiated idea that competition between students leads to greater success.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I hope that it is clear to the Regent House that public publication of class-lists is no longer necessary or indeed desirable within the University, and this is a view which has been transmitted to the central bodies by students, former students, Colleges, Faculties, and Departments.

Over the course of the development of the proposal we have before us today, there have been raised some concerns about the implications of a change of this nature. One of these relates to the potential implications around transparency. It is important to note that statistical examinations data will still be available internally, and the Council and the General Board have committed to considering how statistical analyses of examinations data can be most effective. Stopping publication of class-lists is about respecting students’ rights to share their individual examination results with those they choose to share them with. It will not affect the ability of the University to consider examinations statistics, nor will it stop an individual College from seeing how their students performed relative to the examination cohort as a whole. The University relies on the integrity of its examination processes and its use of external examiners to ensure that academic standards are being upheld. Public class-lists do not have a role in the maintenance of academic standards. The response of the Colleges, via the Senior Tutors, was, with one exception, that the Baxter and Tompkins tables would not be missed if these proposed changes were to be made. Clearly it is very important that Colleges have measures in place to ensure that there are no barriers to all of their students achieving their full potential, but if the view of those responsible for education within Colleges is that there are better ways of doing this than through these tables, we should not delay moving ahead with this Report. These rankings tables do nothing to tackle the very real issue of intercollegiate inequalities.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there have also been concerns that a post-class-lists world will allow for students to misreport their examination results. I am not aware of there being issues of this kind in other institutions, who seem to fare perfectly fine in this regard without class-lists. Students have access to their transcripts via CamSIS and these allow for academic data to be shared securely with those who need to have it – both within and outside the University. More broadly, those who have valid reason to access examination results for individual students or groups of students, whether that is for the purpose of reference writing, the awarding of scholarships, or admissions will still do so, as they do now. We should be prepared to develop our student records systems so that they allow us to work in the way we, the University, want to work. They should not be seen as a barrier to becoming a better institution. The Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) has already reflected on the importance of the collegiate University complying with data protection legislation and requirements.

Much is made of the tradition of the public publication of class-lists. Since the first class-lists were published, students have been able to access their examination results via CamSIS, the number of Triposes and Parts has increased to the extent that not all class-lists are published during Full Easter Term or before undergraduate residency periods generally end, and the potential for sharing of the lists means that class-lists can easily appear online. We should not allow ourselves to be bound by tradition when it is clear that this is no longer necessary, desired, or appropriate.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to conclude, this Report has benefitted from and has been shaped by voices throughout the collegiate University, all but a handful of which encourage us to change our current practices in order to bring them in line with those of all other institutions. The process by which we have arrived at this Report has been a consultative and considered one, and to that end I would like to thank the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and the officers of the Academic Division who have made this possible.

Dr S. J. Cowley (Faculty of Mathematics):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, by the time I have finished today I suspect some might view that there should be a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule for Discussions. I will try to be brief. I have probably had my mind changed today. There have been a number of excellent and impassioned points made here, and the thing that has really struck me has been the diversity of the speakers. However, I want to raise the issue which I was going to raise because I think it’s important.

There is a report in The Guardian that around a third of jobseekers embellish qualifications to land a role.1 I had never really experienced anything like that until this year. When asked to write a reference, I ask the student to send me their CV. In Cambridge we don’t give a degree based on the third-year result. Degrees are a result of Part Ia, Ib, and Part II [in Mathematics]; this student had neglected to include their Ia and Ib results for obvious reasons. I informed the student that if they wanted me to write a reference then it might be advisable to include their Ia and Ib results because my reference would include reference to them. My plea is that if CUSU can campaign with such passion and enthusiasm for what they’ve argued for today, I hope that they will continue to campaign with such passion and enthusiasm to ensure that Cambridge students are not included in the third who embellish qualifications. I understand that there is a pressure on students to exaggerate their results, and I agree that is not good.

And I agree with the speaker who said that Colleges need to stop caring so much about what students get as their results. But I disagree with the speaker who suggested that I, as a Director of Studies, should not care about my students’ results. I do want my students to do well. I do understand that unfortunately many employers will automatically bin your application if you haven’t got a II.i, which is maybe why a third of jobseekers embellish qualifications. Indeed, I am proud I do care about my students’ results.

Professor Virgo was right to stress that we need to address culture, and the fixation that some Colleges have with the Baxter tables. We need to move on from the following quotes. So, quote: ‘despite a couple of excellent individual performances, Maths languishes near the bottom of the Baxter tables’ and quote: ‘surely the time has come when we either require more of our students before they are admitted or we simply decide either to admit no mathematicians or reduce the planned entry to two students’. I tell you that there will be more rejoicing in the Maths Department over one lawyer who repents than over 99 mathematicians who have no need to. Yes, we need to address the culture. The departure of the Baxter tables would be good, but there does need to be some accountability so that we know what the results of the students are.

I have two more points. One, despite what a previous speaker said, the Senior Wrangler is not a prize. The only way it is indicated is by the tipping of the Chair of Examiner’s cap when the results are read out; so that tradition will go.

And finally we’ve heard lots about peer pressure: forty years ago I didn’t experience anything like the peer pressure which has been referred to today. My children are 17 and 19; one is at university, a very good university. If this is really the peer pressure that they or other students are going through, then I feel very sad for those students, and I think that the students should try and address their culture. Because of their pain, we need to change and stop reading out the results.

Mr R. Richardson (Former CUSU Education Officer (2014–15), and alumnus of Robinson College):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am speaking today as an alumnus of Robinson College and former Cambridge University Students’ Union Education Officer for the academical year 2014–15. I was a member of the General Board and the General Board’s Education Committee when a petition signed by over 1,300 current and former students was received calling for change to the practice of publicly displaying class-lists. Having witnessed first-hand the value this University places on the views and experiences of its students, I was deeply encouraged by the close consideration afforded to this matter at the time. I am also delighted that the petition helped spur a thorough consultation process, which has led to the Report being discussed today.

A wide range of arguments for ceasing to publicly display class-lists has been heard throughout the consultation process. The following summarizes my view of the key reasons why the recommendations in this Report should be adopted.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, if we were designing a system for the delivery of exam results to students now, in 2016, I would hope that the University of Cambridge would implement a far more efficient and effective system than pinning a printed list of names and grades onto a noticeboard outside the Senate-House. Publicly displayed class-lists in this form no longer serve the purpose for which they were intended. Much in the same way as I will shortly be emailing the Reporter Editor a copy of my remarks rather than just handing over a sole written copy, students now generally receive their results electronically first (for several extremely good reasons which received much attention a few years ago). In fact, many of the class-lists (including those relating to a large proportion of first- and second-year Tripos results) are published once students have already left Cambridge for the long vacation. Publicly displaying results in this way has become a largely fruitless exercise.

Similarly, when the practice served a genuine purpose of communicating results directly to students, the world in which this occurred was very different to that which exists now. The internet and social media did not exist, and the associated ability to share and propagate specific information relating to an individual was nowhere near as substantial as it is today. While an undergraduate student, I recall being able to find online a photograph taken outside the Senate-House of the class-list for my subject, via a publicly accessible internet forum which I located using a simple search. While this website appears to no longer exist (now featuring just a disclaimer from a previous moderator stating that the concept of maintaining the site is increasingly outdated and difficult to justify), it is clear that the potential for sharing personal information is significant. In the same way, I have seen countless photos of class-lists on social media, with many relating to exams and cohorts of students that I have absolutely no or little personal connection to. It is impossible to prevent this sharing of personal information when it is made so freely available in the first instance. Beyond the necessary internal communication of results such as within the College and department, it should be for the student to decide with which, if any, of their peers they wish to privately discuss their grade. Whether a student’s concerns here relate to data protection, privacy, mental wellbeing, or any other issue, their exam result should be theirs, and not open for all to see and critique. This is where the idea of choice comes in. Students will still be able to share their exam results if they want to, and will be able to seek the support of their College, their community, and their friends; it will be their choice and it will not be thrust upon them.

I take great pride in having received a B.A. from this institution, and believe that the values of academic ability, integrity, and transparency form a central component of Cambridge’s weight on the global academic stage. Following the recommendations in this Report would not compromise the collegiate University’s ability to uphold these values. I believe any additional uses for published class-list data such as the creation of Tompkins tables to be coincidental, and not sufficient reason to persist with a practice that students have for several years highlighted as out of date, an invasion of privacy, and a risk to wellbeing.

I wholeheartedly support the recommendations of the Report, which has been informed by detailed engagement with a broad range of stakeholders from across the University and the Colleges. I hope that the Regent House accepts the proposed reforms. Publicly displaying class-lists serves no good purpose and any claims as to the practice’s productive value cannot outweigh the detrimental impacts students have themselves raised.

Professor G. R. Evans (Emeritus Professor of Medieval Theology and Intellectual History), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

As one’s memory grows longer one reviews fashions in student protest down the years with a less-than-indulgent eye. Setting aside the considerations which arise under the Data Protection Act, which is another matter, I do find it puzzling that a generation which is happy to put the most intimate details of its personal lives on the internet with pictures, recoils from having its degree class published in case it suffers discomfort from its failure to get a first when some of its friends did.

Dr R. Padman (University Council, Newnham College, and the Department of Physics), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am a member of the three bodies most involved in drafting this Report: Council, General Board, and the General Board Education Committee. While I speak in a personal capacity, I am completely in agreement with the proposals. I also Direct Studies at Newnham College, and am a member of and former Academic Secretary to the Physics Teaching Committee, so I have some insight into the needs of both Colleges and departments.

The Report in effect proposes two related actions: first, to cease publishing individual student results in public fora, and then, in consequence, to cease making the same information available other than to those with a direct ‘need to know’ – which would exclude those who currently produce the various tables that compare Tripos performance by College.

At heart, this is about the right of students to choose when to share their results, and with whom. It is not a licence for deceit: employers and others already depend on the transcript, as they do at the other 191 UK universities, none of which now publishes results publicly. Transparency will be preserved through the publication of anonymized statistics.

Other than the Note of Dissent, I am not aware of any great concern at the proposed cessation of publication. Students already receive their results by email in advance of publication, and have anyway been withholding their names from the public class-lists in increasing numbers.

Where real reservations have been expressed, they concern the loss of the data used to compile tables showing the ranked performance of the Colleges. There are currently two such tables. The Tompkins table uses the published class-lists to allocate scores to finalists based on their class – five points for a first, three for a II.i, two for a II.ii, and one for a third. Colleges are then ranked according to average score. This table has historically been published in The Independent newspaper.

The data on individual students are also provided to Dr Martin Baxter, a city analyst, who for a fee then produces a report for each College showing its performance relative to all the others, by subject, including an assessment of the significance of any deviation from the University average. These tables include data on students who fail and those who withhold their names from the public class-lists.

The Report notes that initial responses to the consultation from the Colleges were supportive. With regard to the tables, it was noted that:

‘Only one College supported the retention of the ‘Baxter’ and ‘Tompkins’ tables. The significant majority would not be concerned were these tables no longer able to be produced, on the understanding that Colleges would receive the class-list data referred to above [i.e. anonymized except for their own students].’

At General Board last Wednesday, we heard that Heads of House at the Colleges Committee, unanimously and in a change from the Colleges’ previously expressed views, now wish to ensure that tables of some form can continue to be produced. They want all Colleges to continue to receive fully-identifiable exam results for all students in the University. Reading between the lines, the Heads of House have only lately realised that their opinions differ strongly from those of their Senior Tutors. I am on the side of the academics. Even though the Report is not about the tables per se, this is still likely to be the crux issue, and it is worth setting out the objections to them. The tables are not in the interests of collegiate University, and we should seize this opportunity permanently to suppress them.

Unsurprisingly, the tables have exactly the same negative effects in Cambridge as their equivalent in schools – Colleges prioritize teaching to the test. The widespread use of the tables as ‘management information’ has led to an arms race between Colleges. There is continued upward pressure on supervision norms; Colleges – or rather hard-pressed Directors of Studies – run mocks and yet more mocks in an attempt to steal a march on competitors; there is a range of sanctions for students who underperform, and conversely, students are rewarded with cash and sometimes better accommodation for a first.

The focus on Tripos results deprofessionalizes supervisors. It limits possibilities for deep learning, and discourages students from sampling other once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. The University is currently agonizing over student workload issues. It is the genius of the Colleges to have persuaded us that those are the fault of departments.

Worse however, the tables don’t even show what they purport to. They are predicated on the idea that all University teaching is equally accessible, so differences in achievement must lie in College provision, but that is at best a very naïve view.

As is known from CAO’s Admissions Research, the best correlation with success in Tripos is AS module grades. The students who learn best while they are here are those who have learnt best how to learn before they arrive. Colleges cannot be adding significant value, through their teaching or otherwise, or this correlation would disappear. Instead of the quality of College teaching, what the tables primarily reveal is the strength and depth of applications to the several Colleges, and the effect those have on admissions. Students tend to apply to older, wealthier Colleges close to the city centre sites; these have more pick of the applicants; not surprisingly they do better in Tripos; the tables confirm this superiority. This positive feedback further distorts applications.

Tacitly, the Colleges accept this, and in consequence refrain from taking admissions risks – which are mostly related to students from maintained-sector schools. In my own College we have over several years reduced our admissions numbers, and yet have continued difficulty meeting Access targets. There are many good reasons for not taking too many risks, but performance in the tables should not be one of them.

Competition between Colleges is fine on the sports field and on University Challenge. It is by no means clear that academic competition is equally helpful to the University. In the capitalist model, competition does not after all force up standards uniformly – rather the strong flourish while the weak go to the wall. I don’t believe we really want to see a model in which rich Colleges grow while poorer ones decline. That must be particularly true when we have such a diversity of offerings, including single-sex, mature-student, education-focussed, STEM-focussed, large and small. Yet at present a few older, richer Colleges are overwhelmed with applications each October, while many others struggle to fill their places. The tables only exacerbate these difficulties.

As noted, the tables themselves are purely a College matter. They are clearly not of central importance to the University itself. In response to a Freedom of Information request in July 2015 the University said:

‘As the University does not hold copies of the information, we do not know who compiles the tables or whether their contents differ from College to College. We are sorry not to be of more assistance.’1

Nonetheless, if the Baxter tables represent what they say they do, the University must be the source of the data. (It would, incidentally, be good to know who supplies it, and under what authority.) What is at stake here is the Heads’ of House wish to legitimize the transfer of those data and guarantee it in future.

The proposed distribution of anonymized markbooks to Colleges, with only their own students identified, would allow Colleges to judge their own performance in each subject relative to University averages. That is surely enough for Colleges to hold Teaching Fellows to account. Directors of Studies can get information on all their students direct from CamSIS. Failure to anonymize student Colleges would make it easy to identify the majority of students in small Triposes, and I would argue that is sufficient reason not to do it for any students in any Tripos.

In summary, we are currently sharing students’ personal data, which is needed only by their own College and the University, with all the remaining Colleges, as part of a commercial transaction, in furtherance of a competition which is damaging to the University. That competition is making it harder to reach our Access targets and narrowing the education students receive, while exacerbating already problematic inequities in College provision.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the University proposes in this Report that, rather belatedly, it should respond to the spirit of the Data Protection Act. Data on individual students should be shared only with those who have a legitimate need to know, and only for purposes agreed by the students as the data subjects.

If the University does not approve this Report, I would expect the students to approach the Information Commissioner, and there must be a very high probability that he will instruct us to implement its recommendations anyway. It would be better that the University implement the Report of its own volition, now and in its entirety, because it is the right thing to do.

I commend the Report to the Regent House.


Dr J. S. Myers (Trinity College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this report addresses many matters concerning class-lists. It is silent, however, regarding the reading of class-lists in the Senate-House. Thus it leaves us to infer, from the general nature of the proposals and from the proposed repeal of Regulation 4 for the Publication of Lists of Successful Candidates in Examinations, that the Council and the General Board intend that the class-lists for Parts II and III of the Mathematical Tripos shall no longer be read in the Senate-House at 9 a.m. on the Thursday of May Week, that the Senior Wrangler shall no longer be recognized by the tipping of a cap, and that the names of prize-winners in Part III shall no longer be read out.

The Ordo Senioritatis is recorded from a year variously given as 14911 or 1498–92 depending on the status given to the earliest lists. An explicit division into classes appeared from 1710–11,3 and the form of the lists continued to evolve over the course of the 18th century.

The nature and context of the Mathematical Tripos in the 19th century have been described by Andrew Warwick.4 In the first half of the 19th century, the lists were posted at the Senate-House with increasing ceremony.5 The present ceremony of reading the lists began in the 1860s. In 1861, the lists were still posted without being read.6 In 1862, Romilly remarks on the time of publication having changed from older practice but says nothing about the manner of publication.7 In 1863, however, both Everett8 and Romilly9 describe a ceremony that is recognizably the ancestor of that still in use today, and so that year seems likely to have been the origin of this ceremony. The full order of merit was last read in 1909,10 but in recent years the Chair of Examiners has acknowledged the Senior Wrangler by tipping their cap on the reading of that name.11

The context of the Mathematical Tripos has changed from that described by Warwick, and many aspects of the Tripos of 1863 have been discarded as no longer appropriate for a modern mathematical education. If the Council and the General Board consider that such a description now applies to the ceremony that has been in use since 1863, and that it must be discarded for that reason, they should at least say so explicitly, and indicate the views of those most immediately concerned: current staff and students in the Faculty of Mathematics.

Leaving the intent to be inferred by omission seems inappropriate for such a long-standing tradition.


  • 1John Venn, Grace Book Δ, containing the records of the University of Cambridge for the years 1542–1589. Cambridge, 1910, p.viii

  • 2J. R. Tanner, The Historical Register of the University of Cambridge, being a supplement to the Calendar with a record of university offices honours and distinctions to the year 1910. Cambridge, 1917, p. 355

  • 3Historical Register, p. 356

  • 4Andrew Warwick, Masters of Theory: Cambridge and the Rise of Mathematical Physics. Chicago, 2003

  • 5Warwick, p. 202

  • 6Warwick, p. 202, footnote 57

  • 7Joseph Romilly, Diary, 24 January 1862. University Library Additional Manuscripts: MS Add. 6840.2

  • 8William Everett, On the Cam. Lectures on the University of Cambridge in England. Cambridge, MA, 1865. Lecture III, pp. 72–73. Quoted in: Peter Searby, A History of the University of Cambridge, Volume III: 1750–1870, p.181

  • 9Joseph Romilly, Diary, 30 January 1863. University Library Additional Manuscripts: MS Add. 6841

  • 10Warwick, pp. 202–3

  • 11

Dr J. P. Skittrall (Trinity College and Wolfson College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I apologize that, owing to professional commitments, I am unable to attend today’s Discussion in person.

I was last actively involved in the issue of class-lists publication around a decade ago whilst an undergraduate, and I am not surprised that yet another attempt is being made to suppress them. Indeed, my only surprise is the number of undergraduate ‘generations’ this has taken, as it is one of those issues where each new set of undergraduates believes it has an idea that has not before been considered and rejected for good reason.

When I was last involved in this issue, it was because an extra-statutory attempt had been made to remove a name from a class-list, and the administrators involved seem to feel that their statutory obligation to publish was unclear. (They even managed to cite the Data Protection Acts, despite the clear exemption they give to data in this situation.) It took a representation to the Vice-Chancellor under Statute K 5, a referral to the Commissary, an oral hearing, and I dread to think how much paperwork, before the clarity of the point, in favour of publication, was restored. My actions inadvertently led to the current situation that allows the temporary removal of a name from a class-list, as the result of the dispute was a subsequent notice and grace to change the then status quo (rapidly and without the oversight we are giving today). However, along the way a key plank of the Old Schools administration’s argument was that given a compelling case to maintain a full published record of examination results, the publication of class-lists in the Reporter as the University’s official newspaper would continue, and none of the reasons from then has disappeared in the meantime.

It is interesting to read about the wide variety of consultation responses, although not, regrettably, to read the responses themselves so that I can put my own gloss on the raw data. (I have made a Freedom of Information Act request for these; hopefully the University will not end up being served notice by the Information Commissioner to fulfil its legal obligations as it was last time I had cause to try to obtain information on this issue.) Even with the gloss written by those in favour of suppressing the class-lists, I note that they say that most bodies seem to argue for retention of class-lists, but only for their own use. That is, they think the information is useful, but want it only for themselves.

Having mentioned the Freedom of Information Act, I note that all of the statistical information for compilation of league tables could be requested and there would be a compelling public interest argument in its release (for example, the motive of finding out about an underperforming College). There is no way that the motive of killing the Tompkins table, or similar forms of information, can be achieved with this legislation in place. All that will happen instead is substantial extra paperwork for the various bodies that will need to respond to FOI requests, along with extra private profit for table compilers from those who would rather pay than go to the effort of requesting the data from all the separate Colleges. (Whether one should want to kill the Tompkins table is another matter – and frankly one that seems to be primarily about public bodies trying to avoid scrutiny.)

There is a further general point to those above, namely that there are compelling reasons to regard the individual results of our University examinations as something that should be a matter of public record. The fact that results are public maintains the integrity of the system and ipso facto acts as a deterrent against fraud (because anybody can check an individual’s statement about results without having to challenge that person directly, and all know this).

It seems to me that the main reason for students wanting to keep their examination results private (an issue that usually comes to a head before the students have taken the examinations in question) is, apart from the issue of clutching at any straw that can be used to open the valve on the pressure cooker of exam term, a matter of wishing to avoid the awkwardness of others knowing results they view as sub-optimal.

These proposals and this Discussion detracts from this issue in two ways. Firstly, it unnecessarily reinforces an unhealthy level of primacy given to examination results in this pressure cooker situation (if they were not of utmost importance, why would we be discussing it, let alone considering enacting these measures?!). Secondly, were the proposals enacted, the effect achieved would be the opposite from that intended. The publication of class-lists is a sure-fire way to avoid awkward discussions – everybody knows who did well and better than expected and can congratulate them; everybody knows who did worse than expected, and their friends can make sure they get the support they need without everybody else rubbing it in repeatedly by asking about it and following the answer with an awkward silence. The most awkward examination results time I have experienced in the University was when a department elected to post a candidate-number copy of examination results before Peas Hill had got around to retyping the list to go outside the Senate-House. This will happen repeatedly should these proposals be enacted. The only time I got an unexpected result in a Cambridge examination led to upset precisely because there was an inappropriately restricted distribution of the information, and I had to have an awkward conversation as a result. The solution to this kind of problem is more transparency, not less.

Further to the above is a general cultural point. Many of those voting should these proposals go to a ballot will not have had the experience of taking examinations in the Facebook age. Believe me when I say that whatever you try, in this generation there is no way of doing something important privately any more unless nobody knows you are doing it – and that is not an option for University examinations. (Ironically, I am sure the originators of the social media campaign that led to the report appreciate this point. Incidentally, 1,200 signatures is a relatively small number for such a campaign.)

Students who do not wish to receive their examination results in public no longer have to do so (owing to the wonders of modern technology), so arguments about the physical act of posting (or reading) a class-list are moot. However, on the issue of stress and upset caused by waiting for examination results, I would note that the best way I found of reducing my stress levels over examination results was to know exactly where and when I could find them out – and the only time the University managed that was when the results were actually read out from the Senate-House balcony at 9 a.m. on the Thursday of May Week.

Mr Deputy Vice-Chancellor, these proposals are fallacious and ill-considered. They serve only those who should be serving the University and whose service should be scrutinized by us. It is a time when those with the wisdom of experience, and outside a stressful situation in which we may support these proposals without the benefit of a wide overview, need to speak to stop something we shall otherwise have plenty of leisure to regret. Nonetheless, it behoves us all to remember how stressful University examinations can be (I am sure longstanding readers of the Cambridge Alumni Magazine will agree that is one thing that has not changed). And so I finish my remarks with some words to those following this Discussion who have examinations at present. There is little I can say that will change your immediate perspective of everything else being secondary to the exams you are about to take. But be reassured that there is life after exams – however you do. If you do not get the result you deserve, others will recognize that in life. Make use of the things that help – counselling service, College arrangements, friends who reduce your stress levels. And good luck!

Mr G. A. Rice (Queens’ College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

I believe that this move would be a sad and unnecessary one. While I understand the argument that academic success is its own reward, in reality this is a most naïve view. Speaking from personal experience, I can certainly say that seeing my name in the ‘Class II.i’ section of the Theological Tripos class-list in 2008, and seeing which of my peers had surpassed me, provided part of the inspiration for me to work towards seeing my name in the ‘Class I’ section in 2009. Furthermore, seeing my name appear in that section in 2009 gave me further determination that it should not drop down in 2010. These apparently individually small (or to some minds perhaps petty!) annual targets provided the stepping stones that eventually led to my being able to undertake an M.Phil. in my subject which, had I not performed as strongly, I would have been unable to commence, and which, as early as my first year, I would not have thought about in advance. The reality is that students are competitive, this is healthy and natural, and when they go into the world of work there will be winners and losers; this reality cannot and should not be denied by overly protective universities.

Those who sadly suffer from mental health difficulties and who may be negatively affected by the public class-lists already have the ability to opt out; to abolish the whole system on account of these individual cases would seem heavy-handed. Finally, as a schoolmaster I can assure you that public and comparative listing is very much the norm in many of this country’s most academically outstanding schools, and provides strong motivation for boys and girls, who rightly wish to gain the satisfaction that comes from public recognition of a fine achievement, whether on the sporting field, in the arts, or in academic performance. The downsides to public class-listing are real, but they should not be considered to outweigh the benefits that it brings.

Mr S. Akintaro (Jesus College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

As with most other students I was extremely excited when I received my Cambridge offer. It was a symbol of the hard work I’ve put in over the years being recognized by the University. Again, like most students, the excitement was replaced by discomfort after the first poor feedback on a supervision work. I had previously prided myself on my academic achievements and any stain on that was taken personally. So, what does this have to do with the abolition of the class-list?

The supervision feedback I received was given to me privately; I had the chance to digest the information in my own time and space. The way I responded to criticism was up to me. If this was made public, embarrassment would have been my first response. The thought of my peers watching how I responded would have been too great. Combined with Cambridge’s academic competitiveness – where others also pride themselves on their academic achievement – this piece of public information serves as a way for students to score petty points against each other. This public piece of information allows people I do not know, or interact with, to judge me on how they saw fit. This public piece of information can very easily be internalized when I did not perform well in a one dimensional space, at a specific point in time.

Students struggle with not allowing their grades to define them, and rightly so, because it is only one dimension of yourself. Allowing the class-list to remain public sends the opposite message. Thus, this places unnecessary strain on mental health and personal confidence.

We should not allow ourselves to believe that stagnancy is a good thing. Traditions are meant to be challenged. If Cambridge has taught us anything, it should be that decisions are meant to be based on their relative merits, not fixed in the status quo.

Ms E. Craig-Geen (Murray Edwards College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

As JCR President of Murray Edwards College, every day I saw the struggles and the strength of students at this University. I also saw their hurt and worry at the idea that their exam results would be displayed to the whole of Cambridge. In many cases these students knew that their results would not reflect their true potential, through no fault of their own, simply due to the extenuating circumstances that many students suffer every year. I would like to read a personal testimony from someone who wishes to share their story but remain anonymous:

‘This term I was a victim of sexual assault. Through no fault of my own, my hopes of doing well in my exams this year were taken away from me. I watched all my hard work for the last year slowly dissolve away in between doctors appointments, visits to the Senior Tutor and the College counsellor, sleepless nights, and endless hours of trying to process what had happened. And, in amongst all this, the thought that has haunted me all term is the idea that if I fail my exams, everyone will know. I do a subject in which there are nineteen people in my year – we all know each other, and we will all see that class-list. If I get a third, they will all know. If I fail, they will all know. Even if I get myself taken off the class-list, as the current system for extenuating circumstances operates, they will all know by my glaring absence from that nineteen-person list. My trauma is mine and mine alone, and the thought that people who I see every single day will be alerted to the fact that I am suffering from some kind of ‘extenuating circumstance’ seems to me to be at best extremely distressing and and worst an outright breach of confidentiality. Throughout this term, the idea that my personal struggle will be displayed to everyone in the form of a number on a list has added to the trauma that I am experiencing.’

This student is by no means alone in this – every year a number of students are ill, bereaved, traumatized, or affected by a distressing situation, and the impact of these very personal struggles on their exam results are displayed proudly to the whole of Cambridge. This system is not only unfair and upsetting in an already traumatic time, it is also completely unnecessary. Those students who do well will, no doubt, still be rewarded for their hard work and success with scholars’ dinners, special ballots, monetary rewards, and all the paraphernalia that goes with getting a first. If they wish to share their achievements with their friends and subject contemporaries then, frankly, that is what social media is for – as such, why can it not be a personal choice, rather than an inevitable anxiety? The sharing of the very private and personal information of exam results is, therefore, utterly gratuitous. The private circumstances of students at this University should not be boiled down to a number on a list and displayed for scrutiny by anyone who sees fit to pop into the Senate-House to have a look, subjecting them to the potentially unwanted questions and sympathies of their peers.

Ms J. Wing (Homerton College, and CUSU Disabled Students’ Officer elect), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

It is one of those obscure, irrelevant, unjustified ‘Cambridge’ things that we are never actually officially told about, that our grades will go on display for the world to see. I can only think such knowledge is assumed because everyone at Cambridge will have obviously had their parents go here, and so know how things work, like so many of the practices here. I personally found out about it only when there began a campaign to stop the practice, and I was under the impression that by the time I graduated I would not have to do anything to hide my class mark; that it would be a private matter as it is at basically every other University. This is not the case, and I emailed my Director of Studies to request to be removed. She said that it is a tutorial matter, and so I emailed my tutor, who had no idea who to ask, and so emailed the Senior Tutor, who said I needed to fill out a form given by the tutorial office. Nobody seemed to really know what the procedure was. Because we are never officially told that class-lists are published at the Senate-House, we, of course, are also never told that there is a deadline for applications for our names to be removed, let alone when that deadline passes. I was warned that I might be too late, and I was filled with dread.

The form had a space in which to justify my application. I was to provide medical evidence for the privilege that almost every other University student automatically receives: their privacy, a right to which we at Cambridge apparently do not get by default. One has to not only be ill, but also prove that they are ill. With no advice and no support in how to write this document, I had to persuasively – and therefore, excessively emotively – talk about my disabilities to people I will never meet; the majority of whom, presumably, have no professional knowledge on the matter. I had to tell a group of strangers that the anxiety of having my class made public might be enough to trigger another mental breakdown, and not only that, but persuade them that my mental illness is a legitimate thing. It was, in a word, humiliating, and I would wish it on absolutely nobody, even if they had their application accepted, as I did soon after.

Quite apart from the near-universally distressing experience for disabled students who must for the thousandth time attempt to prove their disabilities to complete strangers, public class-lists are an unnecessary waste of time: for those compiling them, and for those who receive and process applications to omit names. It is little more than an archaism, and a harmful one at that.

Ms C. Jackson (Homerton College), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

As a former student, and now an employee of the University, I strongly feel a number of serious concerns with the matter at hand. Above all, it is the trend into which the abolishment of class-lists fits; a dangerous and worrying trend. It is ‘the thin end of the wedge’.

It is obvious that, were we to abolish class-lists, this does not change or amend grades in any way. Were a II.i achieved, a first, or a third, this would still stand, whether or not included on the published class-list. Therefore those who may argue that they are ‘embarrassed’, ‘upset’, or even ‘traumatized’ by their grade being included on the published class-list is linked entirely to the public nature of the list. Firstly, we must remember that these lists do not include a mark, only the class awarded. There is no way of ranking those within a class from the list; therefore an element of classification has already been removed. Secondly, still considering the public nature of the lists, why are we going to harm the success, enjoyment, and satisfaction of those who feel proud of their class? It is utterly beyond my comprehension why it is being proposed to abolish a long-upheld tradition, rather than propose amendments. Must we ignore and damage the happiness of the student who, against all the odds in terms of personal illness or grievance, has managed to achieve the II.i or II.ii? It may not be the highest class awarded, but to them it embodies their personal substantial achievement, and from personal experience, seeing it in black-and-white on the class-list is one of the proudest moments of many people’s time at Cambridge.

To broaden out the argument, we must also consider student welfare as a whole within the University. One main reason people all over the world want to study at Cambridge is because of how desirable you become as an employee. You emerge from the gruelling Cambridge degree with a backbone of steel; with an urge to question; with resilience to continue when the going gets tough. The difficult and challenging environment of Cambridge should not be thought of as something we want to destroy, but rather one of the main reasons as to why Cambridge graduates are so successful in the wider world. In terms of student welfare, we want to create strong young people who will do well in whatever they choose. The grilling received here means that you are more likely to go out and have a successful impact. You should be proud of your Cambridge degree, whatever class you achieve. Employees do not often bother about the class or mark – they care instead that you are a Cambridge graduate. The public class-list is public proof of your fantastic achievement. To abolish it begs the question: where do we go from here? What else will next be chosen for the chopping block?

The public class-list is not a way to stalk how others performed; it is not a way to publicly shame those who did not achieve the highest grades; it is not needed ‘just because it’s tradition’; it is an essential part of the achievement process here at Cambridge. For those seriously worried, the option should be given to not be included. But to take away the right of attainment from every student is neither fair nor right. We must think positively about the class-lists and see them for what they are: a way to celebrate your success in securing an offer, and managing to get through exams which many see as some of the most challenging you will ever face.

Dr P. Hartle (Senior Tutor, St Catharine’s College, and Faculty of English member), read by the Junior Pro-Proctor:

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as a Senior Tutor of fifteen years’ standing (whose College once headed the Tompkins table during this tenure), former Secretary of the Senior Tutors’ Committee, and current Chair of the Senior Tutors’ Standing Committee on Education, I strongly endorse the findings of the Joint Report, the key proposals of which were unanimously welcomed and approved by the Committee I chair; these remarks, however, are made in a personal capacity.

Contrary to arguments I have seen advanced for the retention of intercollegiate league tables based (inequitably and using unsatisfactory metrics) on Tripos class, these tables are not a useful driver of excellence, and the kinds of competition between Colleges which they promote do not work in the best interests of either students or of the collegiate University. Were it the case that each Tripos awarded identical proportions of classes in each Tripos Part, an argument for utility and fairness might be advanced, but it is no subtle matter to manipulate the league tables by admitting heavily in subjects awarding 30% or more of Tripos firsts and thinly in those awarding 15% or fewer.

The notion that the effectiveness of Directors of Studies can be measured by Tripos performance alone is absurd: those admitted vary in background and needs, the circumstances and experiences of necessarily small cohorts of students in each College reading for a particular Tripos affect outcomes, and Tripos class is not the only measure of success for student or College, any more than starting salary for University graduates; all such measures tell half-truths only, and the publicity accorded by the Tompkins table simply oxygenates that half. Let it go unlamented, but gentle, into that good night.

Mr C. H. G. Allen (GU President):

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am, of course, aware of the sacred hat-tipping mechanism by which the title of Senior Wrangler is currently bestowed. My earlier remarks were made on the assumption that, if the mathematicians wish to retain their tradition, it would be administratively simpler to establish a Senior Wrangler prize than for the examiners each year to make an appointment with the Senior-Wrangler-to-be and proceed with a private hat-tipping.