Friday, 10 July 2009

Degree Annoyance

OK, so when I created this blog a few weeks ago, I made a promise to myself that I would keep it solely as a collection of articles to use as an online portfolio. But something has really ground my gears and I feel the need to vent about it, and here seems to be as good a place as any.

I got my degree results through last week. I got a 2:2, which was what I expected really (I know I could have put a lot more effort in but by the end I was so bored of Uni - their fault for not stimulating me - it was a struggle to even get finished) but I was still disappointed. Over the three years I definitely think I've deserved a 2:1 for the work I've put in.

(Of course most of this is a moot point as in the current job market even a First from a decent Uni isn't going to guarantee you a good graduate job.)

Anyway, after the initial upset at seeing the final grade in black and white I took a closer look, going through my results carefully. I added them up, did various sums and equations on them, and calculated that overall my total percentage for final year work was a respectable 60.9%. The threshold for a 2:1 is 60%. Naturally this is even more frustrating.

So I e-mailed some University tutors to see if there was any sort of appeals process I could go through. I got this response:

"I'm sorry you are unhappy with your results -- it must be incredibly frustrating to be in your position and I can well understand how you feel (my own daughter narrowly missed a 2:1 in psychology a year or two ago and was very upset).

As you say, there are only a few marks involved but as markers we are very aware of how important a few marks can be. We take great care to ensure consistency through a rigorous second-marking system of every assessment and by sending a selection of work to an external examiner. For the final project (MAC393) with its important 40 credits, we also have a "markers' meeting" where all students' projects are laid out on a table, with all the tutors involved in supervising MAC393 students looking at other projects in what amounts to a triple or quadruple marking exercise.

Even so, some students will inevitably end up just below a grade threshold on individual modules -- and eventually their overall degree mark -- just as others will end up just above. But remember that by the time the degree marks are calculated we have looked carefully at the marks on every module, so the overall mark really does give a fairly thorough appraisal of the marks that student has genuinely earned.

So, I'm afraid that we would not look again at your marks as the system we have makes me confident you have been awarded the appropriate grade.

You do, of course, have a right to appeal -- but only into the process of marking (eg if we did not follow the rules properly) rather than the actual marks awarded. Below is a link to the appropriate regulations. If you wish to appeal you will not, of course, be able to graduate until that appeal has been heard.

I'm genuinely sorry I can't be of more help -- but I hope you recognise that what we realise are important decisions are not taken lightly."

Basically - he could have just typed 'tough shit' for all the use that is to me. Brilliantly, the 'system' means I am powerless to do anything about it. It is the entire system of degree marking I have a beef with (only because it has affected me, obviously, but I thought it was a dumb way of doing it before it fucked me, honest), not the way they do it at Sunderland.

Surely it is more fair to take a complete aggregation of the student's work rather than the ridiculous method currently used. One poor module can screw your degree just because it is considered more important than others. For me, the most important modules were ones that were specific to what I wanted to do in my career: a Placement, Sports Journalism and Arts and Entertainment Reviewing. These three modules overall would have given me a very solid 2:1, close to a First in fact.

But because of the way the degree is structured, with a Media Ethics module stuck in the third year to pad it out instead of earlier in the course where it would actually be useful, and a huge module for a final project that apparently showcases all your talents and skills (rather than the placement where you actually DO showcase your skills, dur), I've come out with a 2:2. They may as well have sent me some human excrement in the post rather than that bit of paper, for all the good it does me.

I already regretted my decision to study Journalism at Sunderland, now I just wish I'd done something else completely with the last five years of my life full stop.

And yes, of course it is at least partly sour grapes. But it's still bloody annoying.

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