A QUB graduate is challenging his degree classification in the High Court yesterday claiming that better supervision would have helped him achieve a 2.1 rather than the 2.2 he was awarded in June 2010. Legal challenges to the actual awards given (or not given) by universities are rare enough, never mind querying the final degree classification.
What makes this one to watch is that, like all other universities, QUB already has pretty lengthy and detailed regulations which govern exams, awards and appeals. This case may deem all of that irrelevant.
In Section 1.3.60 of the Study Regulations for Undergraduates it provides two grounds only for review of marks (challenges to academic judgement are not permitted):
i. that there was a procedural irregularity in the assessment process which may have adversely affected the student’s results (Note: an appeal may not be based on the claim that the examiners should have made greater allowance for e.g. a student’s extenuating circumstances);
or, in the case e.g. of the thesis/dissertation element of taught programmes.
ii. that there was inadequate supervision of the student’s work. If a review is requested on the grounds of inadequate supervision, good reason must be provided as to why action was not taken before completion of the assessment.
The current appeal is based on item (ii) above. The details of this individual case aside (as the complainant graduated he may be deemed to have already ‘accepted’ the result), it will be interesting (and significant) to see if the High Court seeks to exercise authority in this matter.
Presumably, if it does, the universities will have to adjust their charters and regulations accordingly – otherwise expect an avalanche of appeals against results and chaos when it comes to graduations (wonder what the statute of limitations would be for this…).
It will be also be another small step away from assessing university students as learners and towards treating them as customers. So much for the knowledge economy, then.