Ex­ams tur­moil over USS strikes

Some con­tent is be­ing re­moved, but in­sti­tu­tions in­sist stan­dards will be up­held. So­phie Inge writes

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - So­phie.inge@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

UK uni­ver­si­ties are mak­ing prepa­ra­tions to re­set ex­am­i­na­tions and as­sess­ments in light of dis­rup­tion caused by the pen­sions strikes, Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion has learned.

More than 1 mil­lion stu­dents are be­lieved to have been af­fected and more than 575,000 teach­ing hours lost dur­ing 14 days of es­ca­lat­ing in­dus­trial ac­tion at 65 uni­ver­si­ties.

As THE went to press, aca­demics were con­sid­er­ing a fresh of­fer to end the dis­pute over the fu­ture of the Uni­ver­si­ties Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Scheme. If no deal can be struck, more strikes will fol­low.

A spokes­woman for the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge said that guid­ance had been is­sued to heads of depart­ment, who would con­sult with ex­am­in­ers and de­cide if amend­ments to ex­am­i­na­tions might be ap­pro­pri­ate to re­flect lost teach­ing time.

Pos­si­ble changes in­clude re­mov­ing ques­tions on ma­te­rial that has not been taught and re­plac­ing them with oth­ers on top­ics that have; set­ting more or fewer ques­tions, or re­mov­ing re­stric­tions on com­pul­sory ques­tions; and short­en­ing a pa­per from the stan­dard three hours and re­quir­ing fewer ques­tions to be an­swered.

“These dis­cus­sions have oc­curred or are oc­cur­ring now. In most cases, no change to as­sess­ment will be re­quired,” the spokes­woman said. “The univer­sity will not be re­duc­ing the pass mark or amend­ing class­ing bound­aries.”

Sev­eral in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing the uni­ver­si­ties of Sur­rey and War­wick and Lan­caster Univer­sity, said that they would be re­view­ing the con­tent of as­sess­ments to en­sure that it did not in­clude ma­te­rial that had not been cov­ered in class.

“If the de­liv­ery of a mod­ule or the con­tent con­tained in an as­sess­ment is af­fected by the strike ac­tion, this will be taken into ac­count, where ap­pro­pri­ate, when work is marked,” a Lan­caster spokes­woman said.

A spokes­woman for the Univer­sity of Read­ing said that a process had been set up to al­low stu­dents to make a case for ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances if they feel that their ed­u­ca­tion has been harmed by the strikes.

“Mit­i­gat­ing ac­tion in­cludes ex­ten­sions to course­work and dis­ser­ta­tion dead­lines, reschedul­ing of missed in-class tests, re­moval of an el­e­ment of as­sess­ment from the over­all as­sess­ment of the mod­ule, or a change in mark­ers’ ex­pec­ta­tions,” the spokes­woman said.

The Univer­sity of Ox­ford was the only in­sti­tu­tion that told THE that it would not amend as­sess­ments. “We ex­pect all ex­am­i­na­tions to take place as sched­uled, and will put plans in place to en­sure that they go ahead if nec­es­sary,” a spokesman said.

As THE went to press, more than 600 ex­ter­nal ex­am­in­ers had re­sponded to a call from the Univer­sity and Col­lege Union for them to re­sign from po­si­tions at uni­ver­si­ties af­fected by the strike.

Dis­rup­tion more strikes are be­ing planned to co­in­cide with exam sea­son

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