Under the proposal, the 24 hour window for online open book exams would be shortened to 5 hoursLouis Ashworth / Varsity

The English faculty’s proposal to shorten the time available for online exams has been met with fury by students who said the proposal felt “like a betrayal”.

In an email to students (17/05), Philip Knox, the director of undergraduate studies, said the faculty was considering shortening the time allowed in online exams, moving some exams in person and ending recorded lectures.

Under the proposal, the 24-hour window for online open book exams would be shortened to 5 hours.

The English faculty claimed that the changes were necessary because “the central University is withdrawing the option of 24 hour exams across all faculties and departments from next year… for a number of reasons, including student welfare concerns.”

Students currently in their first year would also sit some exams in 2023 in a 3-hour invigilated exam hall setting.

The faculty conceded there were advantages to open book exams such as less emphasis on memorisation and an opportunity for deeper learning. However, they also said sitting exams in invigilated halls prevented outside assistance and an equality of environment.

The proposals have come under fierce criticism from second-year students, who branded them “ridiculous” and “a betrayal of trust”.

One remarked that “it seems foolish to suggest examining us in our third, final and most crucial year in a different manner to the past 2 years.”

Others claimed that the English faculty had broken its promise from last year that the then-first-year students would sit exams in the same 24-hour format through all three years of their degree.

Students pointed out that the current cohort of second-year English students have not experienced timed assessment since their GCSEs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with one describing it as “deeply unfair”.

Another second year student said that for the English faculty “to propose change as our second-year exams are only weeks away seems to completely disregard student mental health and well-being, which is already particularly low during exam term.”

Other students expressed concerns that they were now more stressed about their finals next year than their upcoming exams.


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The faculty also suggested that they might stop recording every lecture because they represent “a significant administrative burden for lecturers and administrative staff”.

The email sent by the faculty emphasised that “no decisions have yet been made” on the proposed changes, and stated that it was “important that students are able to make their views… known.”

They encouraged students to share their opinions on an online survey or at a special open meeting to be held in the coming weeks.