Economics department is failing its students

A complete lack of organisation and some mixed up priorities.

Last week, I sat my first open exam. There were curses, caffeine induced shakes, and at one point I was almost driven to prayer. Such is the nature of exams, a traumatic, yet necessary element of student life. One forgets however, that the stress doesn’t end once you’ve handed over whatever you’ve managed to squeeze out within the allotted time, and headed for the nearest pub to eclipse the memory of what just passed. Then begins the nail-biting wait to discover whether those blagging skills, which have seen you through thus far, were enough to win that essential pass. Fortunately, in my case, this process will be over soon. I discover my fate exactly a week after handing in my paper.

For second year economics students, who sat their exams at the beginning of term, this ordeal must be dragged out for minimum of 13 weeks – and that’s if the department actually manages to adhere to its revised deadline policy. Stunningly, this is an improvement on the previous situation which saw students waiting for 19 weeks, an appalling reflection on the priorities of a department which boasts full marks in its last QAA teaching assessment.

The key purpose of any assessment is to give students an indication of the progress they have made, and to highlight areas for improvement. A student who neglected to revise, and spent their lectures wondering what to have for lunch later, could potentially be galvanised into action if they quickly saw their lack of academic commitment reflected in their grades. Similarly, the student who ignores the lure Facebook in favour of hours in the library deserves to know whether their efforts have paid off.

By leaving students in the dark for an entire term, the Economics Department risks both continuation of sloth and loss of motivation. The fact that the papers in question are from closed exams, and none of the answers given will be nearly as long as the total 4000 words submitted by each 1st year History student last Thursday, further compounds the lack of organisation demonstrated by the Economics Department. By the time these students receive their results they are unlikely to remember anything of those hours spent in the exam hall. Any relevance which their marks had in terms of what they learned the previous term will be lost.

The Economics Department needs to step up. Other than vague references to difficulties arising from the ‘structure of the teaching year’, they have failed to give an acceptable justification for its supine approach to marking. These are not practise exams; they are crucial in determining the final degree awarded to these students. John Bone, the Economics Department member to whom student Alexander Fink initially complained, admitted that the situation is ‘not ideal’ for students. What a telling understatement.

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