Class lists on display outside of Senate HouseLouis Ashworth

Regent House, the University’s governing body, has confirmed today that students will be offered an ‘easy opt-out’ from the public display of examination results both online and on the Senate House noticeboards, a tradition stretching back to 1748.

In a close vote on the contentious issue, the fellows of Regent House, which include academics and other key figures of the University, approved a Grace calling for students to have the opportunity to opt-out from the class lists. 412 members of Regent House voted in favour of the Grace, while 391 voted against it – a margin of just 21 votes.

Under the new system, students will have the option to choose not to appear in class lists using CamSIS, an online platform accessible to all students through Raven. The window for doing this in time for this year’s Tripos examinations is likely to run from the 10th May until the 1st June.

In response to the vote, Graham Virgo, pro-vice-chancellor for education said: “I welcome the result of the ballot which means that all students are now able to choose to opt-out from having their names published outside the Senate House or in the Reporter.”

“This opt-out will be implemented immediately. Faculties, Departments and Colleges will still have access to the full class-list for their own internal purposes.”

This marks a major change from the current system, whereby students’ names and exam results were available to members of the University, both on printed lists outside Senate House and in the Cambridge University Reporter. Under the current system, students can only opt-out of the Senate House class lists in exceptional circumstances, after a lengthy, bureaucratic process – while the results of all students taking exams are automatically published in the Reporter. Only 86 names were omitted last year.

CUSU President Daisy Eyre said the change was “fantastic,” and that “it is clear that this is what students want and what makes sense for the future of the University.” She added that “it’s been a long time coming, but maybe we can turn the page on class lists for now.”

The public display of class lists, in which Cambridge students’ exam grades are posted outside Senate House, has been a point of contention for several years. It was the subject of the campaign ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’, which in 2015 gathered over 1,200 signatures for a petition calling on the University to introduce an easier opt-out system.


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That campaigning issue was picked up by CUSU, and in late 2015, a poorly-attended meeting of CUSU Council saw opposition of the Lists enshrined in student union policy. Abolishing the lists became a key lobbying focus of CUSU President Priscilla Mensah. Around the same time, the University was launching its own review, seeking to address the issue of “the future of class lists”.

In April 2016, Varsity revealed that the review – led by Professor Graham Virgo, the pro-vice-chancellor for education – had been completed, and that the General Board of the Faculties had recommended that the lists be abolished, a recommendation which was subsequently passed by the University Council. The review called publication of the Lists “undesirable, unnecessary, and without benefit to the proper business of the collegiate University”. Documentation showed Mensah had told the review that students backed abolition, based on the CUSU Council vote. A Grace was published in July which, if left unopposed, would have meant the end of the lists.

At that point, however, there was a reversal. Members of Regent House – Cambridge’s sovereign governing body of academics and senior staff – blocked the Grace, triggering a vote on whether it should pass. Additionally, a student campaign, ‘Save the Class List’, had gathered enough signatures to force CUSU to hold a referendum on its own policy.

In November 2016, students voted in a referendum to change CUSU’s policy, reversing its position almost a year after it had first been set, to instead campaign for the lists to be maintained. In December, Regent House voted, rejecting the Grace. With the lists’ fortunes totally flipped, the University began a new review into their future, and the possibility of a simplified opt-out.

Those discussions were derailed, however, by news of incoming EU data protection legislation, which University administrators worried could make publishing the lists illegal. The University sought legal advice on if it could even proceed in publishing the lists, let alone create a simplified opt-out. In December, Varsity revealed that the University Council would propose to implement the simple opt-out process that has now been adopted.

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