Thursday, July 05, 2007

Oxford Uni: Getting Exam Results

Sometimes Oxford University just completely baffles me. Two examples come to mind, both concerning exams. Firstly Oxford, pretty much uniquely in the country, strives to deny students access to exam feedback, including their exam scripts. According to the article, Data Protection law requires that comments on exam scripts be made available on request, but to get around this Oxford ensures that all scripts are shredded as soon as the results are officially announced. No-one else does this, and it seems to be a ridiculous practice. Perhaps there is little real point to demanding feedback for your last exams, but there certainly is for prior exams, allowing one to prepare better in future. Oxford claims that since examiners do not always write comments, allowing access would give "uneven levels of feedback to individuals." Well, read the article and decide for yourselves what you think of the policy.

More clear cut, I feel, is the next example. Oxford appears anxious to prevent exam results going up on the internet. As you can see, the Online Exam Results website, which has in previous years put up photos of the exam result listings, now has a disclaimer stating "For a variety of reasons, including threats of a legal challenge from the university, we are unable to publish results for 2007..."

Why? If there was actually any concern about maintaining the privacy of students, I might be sympathetic. But not only are the lists published in the Exam Schools, they are also up in college lodges across Oxford, most of which are often open to the public anyway! It would seem that if someone were to write down what is on the lists (or alternatively get them from the university site) then type them up on the internet this behaviour would be unchallengable. But the university has threatened legal action for putting photos of these publically available lists up. Absurd!

As for the university site, the apparently preferred method for students to get hold of results, this is only available from within Oxford, and so is completely useless for the vast majority of students who will already have left. If it also available for those few who have set up a Virtual Private Network which, as far as I know, can only be set up within Oxford. So why deny the useful service provided by Online Exam Results? What possible good can it serve? Honestly, I sometimes wonder what goes through the heads of those who run this ancient and revered university.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder what the DPA says about the comments candidates leave on exam scripts?! Surely they are personal data too?!
That's a Pandora's Box if ever there was one! :-o