University confirms intent to abolish class-lists

Sam Harrison 19 May 2016

Following indications of its intentions in early April, the University has confirmed that it is moving to end the practice of publicly displaying class-lists outside the Senate House and in colleges, beginning in the academic year 2016-17. The Tompkins Table will also be abolished if the reforms are carried. The proposals will now go before the University’s decision-making board for final approval.

Acting on a petition submitted by the ‘Our grades, our choice’ campaign which garnered 1,200 signatures, the General Board of the University consulted Faculty boards, colleges, CUSU, and Proctors on four different proposals: the status quo, where class-lists were published but students could request an opt-out under different circumstances, be maintained; opting out be made easier; public class-lists be abolished only outside the Senate House; or public class-lists be abolished across the entire university.

Only one college and one Faculty argued in favour of the status quo, most others supporting abolition on the condition that they continue to receive the results in private, for the sake of monitoring progress and allocating prizes.

CUSU supported the abolition of class-lists in the consultation, and president Priscilla Mensah has done so publicly, last month taking to the Times Higher Education Blog to make the case.

Most colleges also consented to the termination of the Tompkins Table, with only one defending it.

The Special Number of the University Reporter which details results will be retained as a historical record and to verify attainment, but will no longer include the class achieved by each students. Instead, it will record those students who met the requirements for each examination. It will also record the names of prize-winners.

A small group of dissenters to the reforms argued that they jeopardise the university’s academic performance, accountability, and transparency. In a summary of their disagreements, they contended that intra-collegiate competition has historically incentivised success, that senior management might use the new conditions to cherry-pick statistics, and that the loss of the data might impede accurate comparisons of colleges. They concluded that the reforms are “likely to undermine the University’s academic standards and performance, and to damage its system of governance.”