Monday, October 25, 2010

Good students don't read either...

A couple of weeks ago, one of my final year classes did a summative test (once which counts as 10% of their final grade). A usually hard-working and reasonably bright student was clearly struggling with it, and when I marked them I found that Stu had had indeed done very badly, gaining an F.

When I returned the work, Stu said something about having known they hadn't done enough revision, and seemed to accept the mark as fair, whilst a couple with Cs asked me to check that I hadn't missed a page or anything (politely, but they asked).

A few hours later, I got an email from Stu: "when is the resit please? I promise I'll study harder".

I emailed back: "no resits allowed (see syllabus). You got a B on the first essay, though, so long as you do a good job on the project report, you should be able to earn at least a B in the module overall"

Student emails back "THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! I thought failing anything meant I couldn't graduate next June and would have to do resits in the Autumn."

I am amazed, first, that this student had made it to final year without realising that "this assignment is worth x% of the module mark" means that I add all the assignments up before deciding your grade and, second that, given that they thought they were not going to graduate on schedule (which is a much bigger deal in the UK than in the US - students go through their studies as a year cohort and typically only 1-2% graduate later than the main group), they were so reasonable about the mark when it was returned. And yes, this is a native student, not one from a very polite culture.

Ah well, at least I made someone's day for once by telling them I would not change the rules as laid down in the syllabus instead of upsetting them!


  1. Grumpy, great story. Snowflakery is an international phenom. Aren't we lucky?

    In other news I wonder if you might write something about the potential impact Cameron's extreme cuts are going to have on your uni or other UK institutions around you? Any possibility of a Thatcher-style flight of British academics to the US? Eliminated departments, cut budgets, frozen salaries?

  2. Grumpy, I am always surprised by the number of students in my classes who cannot calculate their final grades (and who do not understand how individual assignment grades are weighted and then added together). "Why don't you give us points?" they cry. "Then we could just add them together!"

    I second Academic Monkey: I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the budget cuts. The US state that I live in has made some deep cuts in the past two years, but these have been nowhere close to the degree of severity of the UK cuts. While I'm sure the impact on academics themselves will be painful, I'm shocked by the amount of the burden that students will be expected to shoulder (am I correct that UK students will suddenly find themselves responsible for approximately 70% of the total costs of their education, whereas American students are responsible for about 40%?). Very, very upsetting. I spent two years at an English university as a researcher (read: a hanger-on who had a lovely time!), and I remember thinking how lucky the undergraduates were that they would not be dragging a huge burden of debt with them after they graduated. This was back before tuition fees, alas.


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