Exam chaos: student anger

2 July 1968

This week’s issue of Guild Gazette has extensive coverage, both of the chaos and disorganisation in the summer exams, and the wider issue of growing criticism of exams and the debate following the action by Tom Fawthrop at Hull University, who last month tore up his exam paper and walked out during finals. He has now written a book, Education or Examination? The lead story in today’s paper is by Mike Smith:

Following unprecedented chaos in the organisation of the summer examinations, Senate has set up a committee to investigate the reasons for these occurrences.

The Committee which Senate set up is to consist of the Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor White, the Deans of the Faculties and the Permanent Secretary and Bursar of the Guild of Undergraduates.

The Committee’s function is to consider evidence submitted by Heads of Departments concerning any examination incidents in which their own staff or students have been involved and to submit any necessary recommendations to Senate.

The Vice-Chancellor, gave an assurance that whatever the committee recommended would be acted upon.

Students outside the Chatham Street building

At the moment Heads of Departments are reluctant to make any statements since the matter is “sub judice”. Yet even the Vice Chancellor admitted that the University administration may be to blame in some respects.

The first indication that all was not as it should be was on the afternoon of the first day of exams. After already doing one three hour examination in the morning, about thirty first-year social scientists spent three quarters of an hour going from one part of the campus to another in a vain attempt to find where their exam was to be held.

Eventually they were returned to the room where they had gone originally and where they were finally able to do the exam – one hour late. Originally the porter was unaware that an exam was to be held there that afternoon.

The students involved were given orange juice and chocolate biscuits during the exam. Though one later commented, “This only added to the farce of the situation”·

This incident was only the first of a series of failures of organisation which led to the Registrar issuing a notice in which it was stated : ‘The University regrets that some students have suffered inconvenience during the course of the examinations from causes beyond their control.”

The most serious event during the examinations was the mix-up in papers during various parts of final examinations in Hispanic studies.

However one psychology student stated that “The psychological effect of such an occurrence as the wrong papers being given to a student cannot be measured and the effect on future performances when such a thing has happened in one exam must also be considered.”

However, a sample of the incidents which have come to our notice already include the shortage of seats in the Sports Hall on two separate occasions; a lack of papers in a first year Psychology exam, and a case in the Physics finals where students had to wait 15 to 20 minutes for logarithms which were necessary for them to answer questions.


Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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