Buying a degree?
There educational news world is awash with discussion and commentary on the falling value of third-level degrees. The consensus seems to be that degrees are not what they used to be. Pass degrees and lower honours degrees, in particular, are suffering from a lack of value.
All this increases the pressure on students to get a higher honours classification. This, of course, leads to pressure on colleges to award this higher classifications. Should they give in? There is no doubt that this is the easier option, but academic ethics might have something to say about it. Students should get the award level that their work deserves regardless of pressure to bend on the side of the higher level. The result is that lecturers spend even more time and effort giving feedback, and there is nothing wrong with that.
What happens when things go too far? What happens when a student is so upset with his grade that he goes outside the college appeals systems to express his disappointment. A student in Queens University Belfast is doing just that. The student claims that inadequate supervision was the difference between a 2:2 and a 2:1 honours in his degree classification. He is taking his case to the law courts.
QUB respond by saying that the courts are not the place to tackle the dispute and that the student graduated with, i.e. accepted, his 2:2 degree. This seems reasonable, and one assumes that QUB, like all educational institutes, gives students a reasonable period to query and appeal results.
Does the student then have a case? The proverbial jury (in this case, Judge) is out for the moment.
Meanwhile, we have to ask. What does better supervision mean and how do we measure the quality of supervision? Guidelines for supervision and tracking student progress are possible. These need to be flexible enough to allow for a supervisor/supervisee rapport to develop and evolve as the student’s work progresses. If they are overly prescriptive the progress might be stifled by bureaucracy. Where is the happy medium that allows for a robust supervision but prevents the claim of lack-of-supervision by a student? No easy answers here.