Prestigious Peterhouse ball scrapped by Cambridge after poor academic results

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The Independent Online

It is Cambridge University's oldest college as well as its smallest. It is also renowned for its May ball – the highlight of the social calendar for many students. But now Peterhouse College has cancelled the annual ball after the organisers performed poorly in exams. The event will now be held every three years.

Peterhouse, which was once renowned for its academic reputation, has been languishing in the university's league tables, coming second to last in a recent Tompkins Table of results.

Undergraduates, who pay up to £100 a ticket for the balls, have greeted the news with indignation. Ben Fisher, president of Peterhouse's Junior Common Room, said: "Students are not particularly pleased. We are having an open meeting soon so people can air their concerns."

He admitted that every member of the May ball committee had dropped a degree class in their exams from what they were predicted. "They didn't have as much sleep and had to put so much into it," he said.

Mr Fisher continued: "It's a shame that we're not having one. I would like to have a May ball as much as the next person but I think the college's rationale is that members of the May ball committee were having to put so much work into it they were getting distracted."

He dismissed suggestions that the move was a punishment for poor grades. "I don't think it's intended as a punishment for the rest of the people", he said. "It's not that they want us to reduce our extra-curricular activities. They haven't prevented us from doing anything else."

An online Facebook group to save the event had already been joined by the majority of the college's 250 students yesterday. Olly Lomberg, a student at the college, posted on the site: "It seems to me the college is behaving in an increasingly high-handed way without ever taking real responsibility for the poor performance recently."

Mr Lomberg said that staff at the college should take more responsibilityfor the performance of the students. "When will individual directors of studies up their game instead of passing the buck?"

Chris Hamblin, a student at Churchill College, said the authorities there had proposed a similar plan. "The powers-that-be in Churchill College tried to ban our ball last year for similar 'academic reasons'," he said. "Then when we showed them the grades of people on the committee actually went up they didn't have a leg to stand on."