All exam results are currently publicly published outside Senate HouseJoe Robinson

CUSU Council has voted to campaign for significant changes to the way the university publishes and reports exam data.

In a session of CUSU Council held on Monday, CUSU called on the university to stop publishing class lists, officially began opposing the publication of the Tompkins Table and will campaign to change how other college ranking tables are published.

The motion to oppose the publication of class lists was proposed by Poppy Ellis Logan, CUSU/GU Welfare and Rights Officer, and was seconded by Education Officer Rob Cashman. The motion stated: “The current system of class lists denies students privacy with their results and is damaging for the welfare of many students.”

The Tompkins Table, published annually in The Independent, ranks Cambridge colleges by the academic performance of their undergraduates, based on results from final exams.

The university also has its own ranking, the internal Baxter Table, which is circulated internally. CUSU sought to amend the table and any others like it, and work against its “ranked nature”.

In a statement to Varsity, Logan and Cashman said they were “pleased” the Council supported the motions.

“We know from student testimonies that the publication of class lists has a number of negative welfare consequences for many students. We also feel that students’ results belong to them, and the decision to share their results rests with individual students.”

They said the issue of class lists was highlighted by the success of the ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ Campaign, which in Easter launched a petition directed at the university to “to decide whether or not they appear on public university class lists”. The petition, which has received around 1,300 signatures, states that the publication of class lists “promotes a culture of grade shaming”.

In a previous CUSU consultation on class lists in 2008, 66% of students surveyed said they “like the tradition”, and 91% said they were interested to see the proportion of people who got a particular grade. However, the majority (84%) sympathised with those who find the lists “distressing”, and 70% agreed students should be allowed to have their names excluded from public lists without having to state a reason.

The motion “to eradicate college ranking tables”, proposed by President Priscilla Mensah, initially sought to stop the publication of both the Tompkins and Baxter Tables. This was challenged by Trinity JCR President Cornelius Roemer, who suggested removing the Baxter table could “harm the internal admissions process”.

The motion was amended to “campaign to get rid of the Tompkins Table”, and to attempt to change how “other tables”, of which the Baxter was the only one discussed, are published.

Mensah said ranking was “wrong”, and stressed that the motion opposed the “culture” ranking created.

Fitzwilliam JCR Vice President Damiano Sogaro spoke against the amended motion, emphasising the value for colleges of ranked results within the Baxter table for purposes of self-assessment.

Speaking to Varsity, Sogaro said: “Ranking the data seems to be a vital element of allowing Senior Tutors to be able to compare performance to other colleges – merely comparing a college to its own past performance does not allow it to consider external factors, such as difficulty of exams, performance of other colleges and provision across different faculties.”

He also expressed his concerns about arguments against the Tompkins Table, suggesting CUSU “should focus on fixing the methodological concerns surrounding the table,” and noting the table can help prospective students choose where to apply based on seeing which colleges “focus on academics”.

A university spokesperson told Varsity: “The General Board Education Committee and the Senior Tutors’ Standing Committee on Education has expressed support for the withdrawal of public publication of class lists, but it has been agreed that a consultation of all stakeholders will be launched to obtain the views of Faculties, Departments, Colleges and students.

“The consultation was launched this week and will conclude by the end of the year... The matter will be reconsidered by the committees next Term.
“The consultation will also include the possible implications for both Tables, and invite comment.”

The motion to campaign to stop the publication of class lists succeeded with 20 voting for, zero against and four abstaining. The amended motion, to oppose the publication of the Tompkins table and campaign to amend the other tables, passed with 17 for, five against and one in abstention.

The Council passed three other motions. The first was a proposal to encourage the use of access information for events on matters such as wheelchair access to venues, information about food and trigger warnings.

The second was a motion to ask for student representation on the Bursars’ Committee, with CUSU’s President suggested as the representative. Both motions passed with 24 voting for, and none against or in abstention.

There was also a motion to allocate £800 of the Council Free Budget to the Cambridge University Calais Refugee Action Group (CUCRAG). An earlier version was narrowly defeated at the last Council meeting after questions were raised regarding the precedent set by giving funding, and over CUCRAG’s lack of means-testing of students who wish to travel to Calais. An amendment was made, at Roemer’s suggestion, for the motion to acknowledge the “urgent nature” of the campaign. The motion passed, with 19 voting yes, only Roemer voting against it, and four in abstention.

The meeting ended with a request for volunteers for the CUSU Elections Committee, which received no responses, and the hustings for roles on the Part-Time Executive, for which voting closed at midnight last night.

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