Economics department ordered to investigate examination procedure

The Economics department has been ordered to conduct an investigation into its examination procedures following student criticism.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Trevor Sheldon, instructed the department to assess the
examination of its Microeconomics 2 module after complaints from both YUSU and participating students.

Prior to the exam, which took place on 27th April, students were encouraged to study a list of 76 questions, of which they were informed 17 would appear on the exam, constituting 50% of the total assessment. Over half of those assessed achieved a first-class grade, while 12 students achieved a mark of 90 or above. Eight students failed the exam.

“If you don’t read the online questions, you won’t pass. Read them, and you’re pretty much guaranteed a 2.1. That’s why people can afford to switch off in lectures,” explained one student.

“The teaching quality is low so they have to make the module passable. It’s typical of the attitude of the department. The department is focused on a 5-star rating, and not on teaching students,” said another, who added that an announcement was made in the first lecture of the module encouraging all students to begin studying the questions and answers published online before sitting the exam.

“The procedure for the first half of the exam is clearly unusual, but one which the module organiser believes to be appropriate to the material and the way in which it is taught,” responded Bone, who will be conducting the investigation alongside the head of the department, Peter Simmons.

Charlie Leyland, YUSU Academic and Welfare Officer, who raised the issue with Professor Sheldon following complaints, stated: “Assessments should be a way of consolidating and testing knowledge, and for imposing a meaningful measure. If students have known the answers to the questions prior to entering the examination the validity of the assessment is highly flawed, and either the relevance of the material being assessed, or the teaching to match the assessment then is consequently questionable.”

“If you want to use economics in your career, you’ll be unhappy with your degree. But you can get a first for doing practically nothing, and if all you want is a standard middle-management job, why would you complain?” said another student, who added: “Tougher papers are not the way to change this. It’s the standard of the teaching.”

“Students should rightfully expect fair and meaningful assessments, and teaching to arm them with the skills that they are here to learn,” added Leyland.

The Microeconomics 2 module, worth 20 credits, is a core module and is taught to all economics students.

Bone explained that during the investigation, the impact of posting exam answers online would be assessed: “Among other things we were asked to ensure that no students would be adversely affected by this procedure… If it turns out that any students have been adversely affected then we will of course seek to rectify it, while keeping our students fully informed as we always try to do.”

The module was taught by Yves Balasko, a world-renowned French economist who is referred to as “the founder of the topic” by students of the course.

“He’s incredible, but it’s typical of the University to get an incredible researcher who can’t teach,” said another Microeconomics 2 student.

“In my personal opinion the module organiser is a committed and conscientious teacher. And from talking informally to students, I know this opinion to be shared by many of them,” said Bone.

“Our students should expect the highest international standards of education at this institution. We have world class researchers and our students should feel both inspired and learned from their encounters with them,” Leyland said.  

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