If the legislation passes students will be able to complete their exams and graduate in the absence of an external examinerLouis Ashworth for Varsity

Cambridge academics have condemned the University for attempting to pass legislation that would jeopardise the “integrity” of all exams in order to quash the impact of a possible marking boycott.

The University has proposed two graces, which if passed on Friday (24/03), will allow students in the upcoming exam cycle to complete their exams and graduate in the absence of an external examiner.

Priyamvada Gopal, professor of postcolonial studies, called out the proposals to her 83,000 followers on Twitter: “So Cambridge management which is *all* about ‘world beating standards’ and top class academic rigour etc is getting ready to pass legislation that will allow graduation without work being marked by teaching staff. Only takes a second to drop all the high-mindedness.”

She continued: “Come be taught by the finest scholars in the world, but hey, we don’t care if they don’t assess your work, we’ll graduate you anyway for the money.”

Graces are deployed by the University to override the Statutes and Ordinances, the University’s de-facto constitution, which currently states that the assessment of formal examinations must be consulted by an examiner who is not a member of the University.

According to the University, external examiners “play an essential part” in the examinations and awarding process. They ensure “that formal procedures are adhered to, that the standards of awards in Cambridge are comparable to those elsewhere, and in suggesting improvements to the examination process.”

The graces will pass automatically unless 25 members of Regent House, a body comprising of Cambridge’s academic staff, sign a petition by 4pm on Friday (24/03).


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The University has pursued this action in anticipation of a possible marking boycott by the UCU, but many have argued that the move will undermine the academic integrity of examinations.

William Astle, the membership secretary of the Cambridge branch of the UCU, has proposed two petitions in order to stop the graces from passing.

He told Varsity: “These petitions do not concern the merits of UCU industrial action, nor do they concern the right of the University to respond to industrial action; they are about the integrity of the University’s examination processes and whether it is right that the usual standards, which include independent scrutiny by external examiners to ensure fairness, should be diminished.”

The petitions will be published in the Reporter next Wednesday (29/03).

A University spokesperson said: "The University is aware that a renewed mandate for industrial action during Easter term could include a marking and assessment boycott. Should this take place, students on courses that are impacted by the boycott may not be able complete their degree and graduate to a normal timescale. This could prevent students from moving on to employment, or further studies. We are determined to work to avoid this potential impact on our students.

The Council has therefore submitted proposals for exceptional powers to allow students to complete their degrees on schedule. To protect academic standards, these powers would only be used in cases where students have completed all assessment requirements and there is academic evidence for examiners to make an award. Most Universities in the Russell Group, including Oxford, already have such powers.

 Members of the University have requested a vote on these exceptional powers. This will take place during Easter Term, and the results of the voting will be known on 17 May 2023.”