It’s an age-old tradition that has left nervous students with knots in their stomachs for 300 years, but now mollycoddled modern undergraduates want Cambridge University to stop publicly displaying their end-of-year exam results.
Student campaigners have launched a petition calling on the top-ranked university to end what they call the “grade shaming” practise of publishing exam results on large noticeboards outside the 17th-century Senate House at the end of term.
On the evening of 20 May, more than 900 students had signed the petition, amid suggestions from critics that the brightest students in the country were naively seeking protection from the harsh realities of life.
However campaigners from Our Grade, Our Choice say the rules “promote a culture of grade shamming” at the university and unfairly treat students with mental health issues. The campaigners also say the system discriminates against members of the transsexual community who may “not wish to be identified by the name the university has on record”.
Under current rules students are able to apply to have their names withheld from the public listing, but this application must be back by their tutor and will only be considered in “exceptional circumstances” and when accompanied by a medical note from a GP or counsellor. Instead Our Grade, Our Choice wants all students to be given the freedom to opt-out of having their grades publically displayed.
A second-year medieval languages student at the university, who did not want to be named, said: “Our relationship with our universities has changed as a result of the tuition fees hike. Our grades are more our own than they ever were before and it is therefore unacceptable for the university to make these decisions for us. Grades and the displaying of names carries a lot of emotional baggage for a lot of people.'
However education experts have dismissed students concerns as “squeamishness” and warned that students would not be able to hide their performance from potential employers.
Professor Alan Smithers, the director of the Centre for Education at Buckingham University and an advisor to the House of Commons education select committee, said: “Exam results are a public accomplishment that must be publically known, hiding them away can’t be seen to be achieving a sensible end. If a student didn’t do as well as they’d have hoped, hiding the result will do them know good when they come face to face with a potential employer.”
A University spokesman said: “The University has an established system in place for students to apply to opt out of Class Lists. If any student feels uncomfortable and wants their name to not be published, they can apply for an exemption via their Senior Tutor.”