Thursday, February 25, 2010

Academic insanity . . .

I was very pleased to read that a British professor has successfully sued his university for 'dumbing down' his exam results - but more than a little irked to see how widespread the practice is, both there and here. The Daily Mail reports:

A professor who quit in protest at the 'dumbing down' of degrees has won a long-running legal fight to prove he was forced out of his job.

Paul Buckland failed 18 out of 60 second-year students on an archaeology course at Bournemouth University, believing many of the papers to be 'of poor quality'.

When 16 candidates took a resit, he failed all but two of them.

But senior dons claimed his marking had been too harsh and raised the students' marks by up to 6 per cent, moving several from a 'clear fail' to a 'potential pass' if grades in other areas were high enough.

Professor Buckland argued in the Court of Appeal the over-ruling of his marks amounted to 'an equivocal affront to his integrity' that had left his position untenable.

Judges this week ruled in his favour, finding the university did treat him unfairly.

Professor Buckland's resignation in February 2007 from the department of environmental archaeology provoked a row over academic standards as the Government sought to expand higher education.

Explaining his decision to step down, he said at the time: 'If you don't make a stand somewhere, you might as well start selling the degrees on eBay because that's all they'll be worth.'

He said the re-marking was 'part of a much larger process of dumbing down' that made a 'complete mockery of the examination process'.

. . .

Responding to the ruling, Professor Buckland said: 'The verdict restores the right of individual academics to return marks within the subject in which they are acknowledged experts.'

He is now likely to receive compensation from Bournemouth.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, to which Professor Buckland belongs, said: 'This is an important victory for everyone who values high standards and probity in our universities.

'However, we are deeply concerned about the events that led to this tribunal.

'Staff need the confidence to be forthright and honest in their comments and assessment of work.'

There's more at the link.

Congratulations to Prof. Buckland for his grit and determination in sticking to his guns . . . but how many other professors and lecturers share his passion for excellence? How many of them simply 'go with the flow' and adjust marks to let second-rate work pass muster? It's a disgrace, but it's also very widespread.

I hope Prof. Buckland's example might signal a reversal of the trend . . . but I won't hold my breath in anticipation.


1 comment:

Diamond Mair said...

When we lived in Mexico, the Progeny & I worked for cab fare {literally!} teaching English-as-second-language classes - I worked primarily with adults, on the conversational level - had one student who was intelligent enough, but rarely in class - I failed him - the 'management' passed him, as the classes were paid for by the individuals/their companies - I argued, but since I wasn't working legally there {with all the requisite paperwork}, there wasn't a whole he##uva lot I could do ................

Semper Fi'