Trinity College has topped the Tompkins Table for the past seven yearsLouis Ashworth

Following the introduction of the ‘easy opt-out’ system, questions now remain surrounding the future of Cambridge class lists.

The reform of the class lists was implemented on Thursday, after the fellows of Regent House voted 412 to 391 in favour of the new system. Students now have the ability to easily opt out of the class list via CamSIS, ensuring that their exam results are neither displayed publicly on boards outside of Senate House, nor on the online Cambridge University Reporter.

Before the change, students were only able to opt out under exceptional circumstances, with just 86 opting out in 2017 – the number of opt-outs is likely to be far higher this year.

Speaking in December following the decision of the University Council to implement the opt-out system, the ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ campaign stated that they “still believe abolition is the right course of action.” However, other campaigners who supported easy opt-out do not support abolition. ‘Save the Class List’ support this decision as final, and have said that this was the result they campaigned for.

Questions surrounding the future of the Tompkins Table have been raised. The table, which annually ranks colleges based on their tripos results, is reliant on students’ grades being made public.

Although Peter Tompkins, the Table’s creator, has said that he does “not personally expect a deluge of students to wish to absent their names from the results list”, if a significant portion of students choose to opt-out of having their results published it could seriously call into question the validity of the list. Considering 2106 students voted to abolish the lists in 2016, this could be a possibility.

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CUSU maintains a position that is hostile to the Tompkins Table, and the University’s initial 2016 review into abolishing the class lists found that several colleges “would not object to [the Tompkins Table] disappearing”.

Despite Oxford not publishing their class lists, after abolishing the public display of examination results, they do still release the Norrington Table, which is very similar to the Tompkins Table and available for public consumption. This does suggest that the Tompkins Table could continue to survive in its current form.

However, the Norrington Table is released on Oxford website, with the University having access to its own examination data. Conversely, the Tompkins Table is not an official Cambridge table, and so producing it will potentially become much more difficult if the number of students achieving a certain degree classification at each college is not released publicly.

Cambridge also has its own internal ranking table of sorts called the Baxter table which ranks undergraduate students by their year and subject using data obtained from class lists. Commissioned by certain colleges, the Baxter table is distributed to the senior tutors although unlike the Norrington table the full tables are not published publicly or outside of the colleges. 

The campaign for total abolition of the lists, however, has not been completely abandoned. Many believe that Cambridge could follow the example of Oxford, who abolished their class list system in 2009 after the introduction of the ability to opt-out saw over 40% of students choosing not to appear on the lists.

Approaches to the new opt-out system have been markedly varied amongst the CUSU executive. Daisy Eyre, CUSU president, and Martha Krish, CUSU education officer, have not directly advocated opting out of appearing on the lists. Both, however, have been supportive of the decision.


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In a statement, Martha Krish said that she was “so glad that this issue has finally been decisively resolved,” adding that she felt the University was now becoming “more in tune with the needs and concerns of students.”

However, Florence Oulds, CUSU disabled students’ officer, has encouraged students to opt out. In a Facebook post, she called the class lists “grotesque public displays of elitism” and said that the public display of results “promotes an educational environment of arbitrary league tables rather than a focus on the learning and progress of individuals.”

The result has followed a long campaign to reform the system. In 2015, CUSU adopted a stance in favour of abolishing the lists altogether. However, in 2016 it was forced to reverse its position following a student referendum where over 55% voted to keep class lists. Instead, they began to support the easy opt-out system that has just been implemented.

The ‘easy opt-out’ system is a clear break from tradition for Cambridge, but for now its effects remain speculative. Whether it will have any marked effects on this year’s class lists will be seen in their publication following examinations. The long-term effects of the change may take years to manifest.

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