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An open letter to the University of Bath

Dear Dr Ian White, Dr Julian Chaudhuri and Ms Wera Hobhouse MP,

   We are writing to you today to voice the concerns of final-year students from the Politics, Languages, and International Studies department at the University of Bath. After four years of hard work, we received our results yesterday for our degrees, however, the results were bitterly disappointing.

As you can imagine, after a global pandemic, online university lectures, online exams and strikes every semester, students have had a rough ride over the past few years. Our results day and graduation had always been a beacon of light amidst this chaos, and they were days we were thoroughly looking forward to.

It saddens us to say that for the vast majority of PoLIS students, these days have now been tainted unbelievably so. Due to the ongoing marking boycott, in which many of our lecturers are taking part, students received incomplete ‘interim’ results as our degree classification.

This has entailed giving students a 40 (pass mark) for their dissertations and giving them a grade of 0 for any coursework or exams that weren’t marked due to the industrial action. This alarming approach has had a detrimental effect on our final grades, with students who were on track to receive high 2.1s and 1sts now facing 2.2s and 3rds.

The University of Bath has its own mitigating circumstances procedure whereby a mark can be discounted from the overall grade, if it is lower than your average, due to extenuating circumstances. This procedure is compassionate and supports students when issues out of their control impact their academic performance, so we want to know why the university hasn’t followed its own procedure in this instance.

We were informed yesterday in a Q&A that our department felt they had handled the situation better than other universities as they haven’t given us unrealistic results. But this begs the question, what is realistic about giving high-performing students low grades they were never on track to receive?

We have also been informed that our department tried to lobby the Academic Registry board to accept our provisional dissertation marks with only one marker, to avoid the overall degrees being as low as they are, and yet our department was met with arguments that this wouldn’t uphold the University of Bath’s integrity and academic standards. To that, we ask, where is the integrity in giving students a mark of 40, which is not their actual mark?

Lots of our peers have postgraduate studies and jobs that require a minimum 2.1 grade. While the University of Bath has claimed that students will be able to navigate this potential issue, the students don’t believe this is good enough. We know that we deserve a fair representation of our hard work at university as our interim degree classifications.

This issue is not about whether we support the strikes or don’t support the strikes. Students on all sides of the political spectrum agree that the manner in which this issue has been handled is beyond appalling. We were left crying and anxiously calling our friends and family because of a decision to negatively mark our final university assignments. What is particularly frustrating is that nationwide, university management has opted to irrevocably damage the value of our degrees as well as the reputation of UK Higher Education instead of working with lecturers to resolve an issue of which they have been aware for years, and a boycott they had plenty of time to try and prevent. 

We hope you can understand the pain this has caused us and the uncertainty surrounding our prospects and degrees. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time at the University of Bath, regardless of the disruption, but the handling of results day has felt like a kick in the teeth for our cohort.

Going forward, the students demand the following:

  • University management working to immediately end the boycott to ensure that all work is marked by the relevant department academics before graduate roles and postgraduate studies start in September.
  • That all outstanding dissertations are marked by two relevant academics (one of which is the dissertation supervisor).
  • Concrete evidence of how the university is working to maintain its academic reputation and the value of our degrees.
  • Any and all data collected by the university on the impact of a) strikes and b) the reduction in the quality of academic contracts on our education to be published and made freely available.

Furthermore, we would like to ask Ms Hobhouse what she is doing to help protect the city’s academic reputation and ensure that the economic benefits of having such a large student population are maintained.

We await a response from you both on the matter and we hope that the university will address this issue and the students it has so deeply affected. Failure of university management to take these demands seriously would, in our view, represent a serious breach of their responsibility to graduating students and the wider university community.

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