Oxford abolished Class Lists in 2009 after a trial period with a relaxed opt-out systemTejvan Pettinger

Class Lists – also known Pass Lists, enumerating those students who have passed their exams – were a feature of many of the UK’s oldest universities for centuries. However, in recent years several institutions have abandoned the practice due to concerns over student welfare and privacy.

The University of Oxford discontinued its publication of Class Lists in 2009, abandoning the long-standing tradition which saw students assemble outside the Examination Schools to pick out their name and result from banks of sheets of paper.

The decision was taken after a trial period during which a more flexible opt-out procedure was introduced. Students had always been able to apply to have their name removed from the lists under the Data Protection Act, but were only successful if they were able to prove that featuring on the Lists caused them distress.

During the trial period, this requirement was dropped, leading to 40 per cent of students choosing to opt out. In the University’s consultation document about Class Lists, it was noted that “the additional load falling on Boards of Examiners, Faculties and Departments, the Colleges and the Central Registry [as a result of the high percentage of students opting out of the lists] would require careful consideration”.

Oxford eventually decided to abolish Class Lists completely, and students now receive their results online, where they are not available to members of the public or other students.

More recently, there have been discussions surrounding the wearing of academic dress at degree ceremonies, because of its potential to set apart students who have achieved Firsts from those who have not.

Similarly, the Education Committee of Durham University, with representation from the Student Union, elected in 2012 to stop publishing Pass Lists online.

In a statement, Durham said that “the decision was prompted by feedback from students, who were unhappy about results being published online with unrestricted public access”.

Unlike Class Lists, Pass Lists do not display each student’s classification, instead generally only listing those students who have been permitted to continue to their next year of study or who have successfully completed their degree.

However, according to the University’s website, “increasing numbers of students [had] been requesting that their names [were] omitted from the published lists”. Students now access their results through a password-protected system.

At the University of Warwick, Pass Lists are displayed in the foyer of University House. For finalists, their degree classification is also displayed. The University has introduced an opt-out system, whereby any student can request to have their name removed from the list.

Despite the discrepancies in Class List policies between different universities, the University of Cambridge appears alone in offering students such a complex and demanding opt-out procedure

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