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How did the first year go for your DC? First year exam woes.

(65 Posts)
funnyperson Wed 20-Jul-11 20:10:29

Its the end of the first year at University for my DS and he has grown up, gained in confidence, independence and happiness.
His end of year exam results sheet reveals firsts and upper seconds in all his papers, but no record (NR), alas for- wait for it- 8 out of 12 essays. They were all submitted, agrees the faculty, when he enquired today, and emailed them his proofs of submission. But the tutors didn't mark them. Not for want of time- some of these essays were submitted in the Autumn term.

'As a favour' he will be allowed to retake the year. I am so angry I will probably get a heart attack. I am taking it to the head of the exams section but any more suggestions would be welcome. Any others have first year exam woes/successes?

CrosswordAddict Wed 20-Jul-11 20:48:57

funnyperson I have not much to say that will help you but just want to send my sympathy to you. I think I would have had a heart attack by now in your position.
It might be difficult to get any information from the academic staff now with holidays (sorry vacations!) on their minds.
Strange to me that this has only just come to light now, when it's too late to do much about it. Why did they not flag it up sooner so your DS could rectify things?
How many tutors were involved in marking them? You need to be a detective to work this one out.
Best of luck anyway.

goinggetstough Thu 21-Jul-11 07:57:44

Nightmare! Why are they saying he can retake the year... they have accepted that they have received the essays so surely the problem/fault is with the faculty and not the student. Are they all coursework essays because my DD had some that contributed to the final first year grade and others that didn't. I believe she has still got one essay that hasn't been returned from December, but has passed the year.
I suspect the head of the exams section will not speak to you only your son due to data protection etc. It is possible to get round this using a speaker phone so you can both talk. Hope you get it sorted.

Bearcat Thu 21-Jul-11 12:16:08

Good luck FP and DS in getting this sorted out.
Have they any idea how much money it will cost to have to redo the year, probably over £10,000 (he's in London isn't he?) in tuition fees, accomodation and money to live!
If your DS has proof of handing this work in then it is the universities problem surely.
The 'favour' would be for the university to get this sorted ASAP, and relieve you of this stressful situation.

funnyperson Thu 21-Jul-11 14:26:41

Thank you bearcat, goinggetstough and crossword addict - I cannot express how helpful it is to have you answering and being there.

I keep thinking of betelguese and how proactive she was with her son at Oxford and wishing I had been more like her. I did actually email DS tutor in March saying DS was worried at no feedback from his essays but simply had a short but pleasant email telling me as a parent to f off (in different words) so I naturally backed off. Oddly enough, even by that stage four essays had been submitted and (as we now know) not marked. I am so angry.

DS has not been an angel I have to say, but he has complied with College regulations on submission.

We have written to the college exam board and I am asking for legal advice to draft a letter to the head of department asking for DS essays to be marked and put in his exam result. I am wondering whether to sue for the cost of a year at university since DS appears to have only been supplied with half an education. Essay skills are the core of his degree and how could he improve them with no feedback throughout the year?
Perhaps I should sue for the cost of two years- the year lost and the year to be repeated.

I am all informal and nice as pie to the tutors at this stage though. But this is all so depressing I cant tell you.

crazyspaniel Thu 21-Jul-11 15:41:54

I work in a university and this sounds very fishy to me. If the essays have been submitted on time, they should be marked - even if they have only just been located. There should be no question of retaking the year. Your son's tutors should be prepared to answer any questions you have - as long as you son agrees in writing that they can do so (the Data Protection Act prevents university staff from even acknowledging to third parties (which includes parents) that their child is a student at the university). Have they said why the essays were not marked? Have they said why they are insisting on your son repeating the year? Even a September resit would be preferable (though technically still inappropriate if they are in the wrong for not making the work). I have to say I have never, ever heard of anything like this happening at any of the institutions I have worked at. Have you checked how the appeals process works at your son's College?

Finally, I don't want to make any assumptions about your son's case, but this situation sounds so outrageous to me, that it does make me slightly wonder if you are in possession of the full story. I've been contacted by parents on a number of occasions when it has been clear to me that the student has not been entirely honest with them (eg. student has actually failed modules but did not want to admit this to their parents for whatever reason). And, of course, I can't disabuse parents of these misconceptions because the Data Protection Act prevents me from discussing their child's situation, so the parent often goes away thinking that our procedures are very arbitrary and unjust which, of course, is not the case. I apologise if this is not the case here, but it is extremely common, in my experience.

crazyspaniel Thu 21-Jul-11 15:43:03

Sorry - that should read "marking the work" not "making".

lionheart Thu 21-Jul-11 15:58:27

This does sound very strange. You could also suggest that your son contact the student rep to see if they know of any other missing papers. The SU may also have advice. There is no way he should be asked to repeat. They should be marking the essays right now giving him the results/feedback he should have received in the first place.

As well as the markers, the will be a Chair of the Exam Board, Head of Department and usually external examiners involved. If you don't get a better response then get your son to contact the Dean of the Faculty.

There are lots of avenues to explore here.

SarkySpanner Thu 21-Jul-11 16:10:48

I agree with crazy.

This makes no sense.

I suspect you are not getting the whole story here.
IME unis only make students retake a whole year as an absolute last resort. It is not in our best interests for this to happen.

Most uni staff are contactable via email through the summer. I recommend that you email the course director and ask to arrange a meeting with both you and your son present. Copy the email to the head of department and to an adminstrative contact within the department.

LadyLapsang Thu 21-Jul-11 18:00:54

OP, this sounds really strange. Have you sat your son down and explained, before you take this any further, that he must be totally honest with you. Did he completed and submit all of the essays in time as required? If not, you need the details. My son was ringing me up when he got each essay result although they certainly took a lot longer than school to mark - luckily he hadn't got our of the habit from school of telling me how he had done although the communication seems to be fading a bit now, but that's growing up for you. I vaguely remember seeing something from the university near the start of the year explaining their marking and what happened if essays were not submitted in time - surely if he had submitted essays before Christmas he would be querying problems with marking well before now - did he address this with his personal tutor?

funnyperson Thu 21-Jul-11 22:12:22

I saw his mark sheet. I saw his proofs of submission. I spoke to the exam board. Tis true what I say.

lionheart Fri 22-Jul-11 10:10:12

Then they should be falling over themselves to put it right, OP.

LadyLapsang Fri 22-Jul-11 13:14:14

OP, so you've seen the mark sheet with NR next to 8 out of 12 of the essays. Have you also got something in writing from the faculty saying these 8 essays were submitted as instructed? Definitely think you should do as SarkySpanner suggests and arrange a meeting with the course director with you and your son present - something is not right about this and you need to get to the bottom of it.

LadyLapsang Fri 22-Jul-11 13:15:23

Just a thought - has he been accused of plagerism?

DamselInDisarray Fri 22-Jul-11 13:21:21

I'd agree that there must be more going on here. It all sounds very odd and not at all in line with general university procedures.

Crossword addict is wrong about the staff being uncontactable because they are on months and months of holidays. University staff are generally contactable all year round (although they can't discuss matts with parents); those who aren't are more likely to be on some kind of research leave or very commonly fieldwork when it's not term time. The long holidays only apply to the taught students. Mostly the staff try to cram as much research activity into this time as possible.

CrosswordAddict Fri 22-Jul-11 13:26:05

funnyperson Something here does not add up and it is really bothering me. How can this kind of stuff happen to a bright student who seems to have good exam grades? Have the staff at the university picked up on this discrepancy?
One thing which crosses my mind is a clerical/admin error. Does he have a common surname? Have you checked his Identification Number/Candidate Number? Has he got muddled up with another student?
It might be easier if you asked his Tutor to give advice and guidance. It's easier to deal with a known face rather than just whoever happens to pick up the phone in the University office.
Would welcome some feedback as this is so puzzling.

CrosswordAddict Fri 22-Jul-11 13:29:37

Damselindisarray Sorry I didn't mean to sound scathing about University staff. I'm sure they need the holiday to prepare for next term etc. I just meant they might be away from their office for a few days.

DamselInDisarray Fri 22-Jul-11 13:40:43

But it's not holiday to prepare for next term. Academics don't only teach.

It's the only time of the year that anyone can get any sustained research/paper writing done Doing so is vital to our careers. We are under a lot of pressure to maintain levels and quality of research output, and to apply for funding to cover this. To those on the outside it might look like a very long holiday, but all the academics I know (and I know many) are very busy during the 'holidays'. They might not be physically in their offices, but that is no indication of how much work they are doing.

GrendelsMum Fri 22-Jul-11 13:51:22

I would agree that there's something very very strange happening here, and I wouldn't be surprised, I'm afraid, if you hadn't been told the full story by your son. 'Not been marked and won't be marked' seems a very odd situation.

As people have said, as your son is an adult, the University can't give out his details without his express permission. You might ask him to write this letter, so that you can talk to his Tutor by phone, etc in future.

I agree that having a face to face meeting with the course director with both him and you present might be the best way to go.

Libra Fri 22-Jul-11 16:39:23

I am a course leader and year tutor at a university.

Questions I would ask your son: why did he not query where his marks were when everyone else received feedback (most universities these days have policies about feedback, for example we have to give feedback within 6 weeks).
I would get him to immediately contact the course leader (each department should have a member of staff 'on duty' each day so he should be able to talk to someone.
Why can he not resubmit? We have resits in August.
Does he actually have copies of all the essays he says he submitted? If so he should send them immediately to the course leader.
Are you sure this is not related to attendance? For example, at some universities students are not allowed to submit coursework or attend exams if they do not have a class certificate that shows that they have attended 80% of all classes at least.

He will have to do it himself I am afraid - I would not be able to talk to you.

Did the university really say that he could resit the year 'as a favour'? This sounds incredibly odd to me. We have mountains of rules and regulations about stuff like this and how it sholuld be handled. We do nothing 'as a favour' - that bit sounds fishy to me.

Good luck.

funnyperson Fri 22-Jul-11 19:13:40

100% attendance and the faculty agree all the work was submitted and received.

Some work didnt make the faculty deadline, though all work made the school deadline. School policy says that work should have been marked within a month and feedback to the student. This didnt happen and I queried it in March.

We think what happened is that when work was submitted online after the faculty deadline, the tutors might not have been told by the computer that the work was there to be marked. However I am astonished that they didnt check in March or even in May, when the school deadline was

Anyway DS has asked for a 'clerical check' as advised by the exams office, which will trigger an internal enquiry, and he has been told by the exams office that his essays will be marked by September. Thats put paid to a happy summer

All joy and motivation has left his face. I am so distressed for him. Some of these essays were 6-7 pages long, he read about 20 journal articles etc for each.

School policy says the essays should have been marked and that he should be allowed to resubmit- sounds awful but I cant help feeling that the course tutor knows he is in the wrong and is looking for excuses- for example he told DS that an essay was 'not an honest submission'- apparently he meant it was too short and very late- but dont you agree it sounds like he means plagiarism and that in inself is very distressing for DS- and if so then why wasnt DS told before and why werent these 8 essays marked at all- thats the oddest thing- the essays have not been marked. Oh well, an investigation is underway

funnyperson Fri 22-Jul-11 19:48:07

Coping with stress and uncertainty and the fallibility of institutions is a life lesson of course.

Have explained to DS to be unfailingly polite, clarify processes, copy everyone in on emails, ensure all paperwork is filed and copied.

I am cooking his favourite foods and went out for the celebratory meal ( only it was a commiseration meal) anyway.

I am feeling awful because the day his results came out I assumed he had got 8 zeros and so failed through not submitting his essays and so I gave him a very very hard time (ie shouted non stop for hours about how my mum and dad had travelled 5000 miles to get an education which he had thrown way etc etc) till he showed me his proofs of submission and we re read the sheet and realised it didnt say fail it said not complete so now I feel so bad I mistrusted him.

drcrab Fri 22-Jul-11 20:22:01

This doesn't sound right. I'm an academic and a director of a programme at university.

If he's been accused of plagiarism then he'll be allowed to resubmit (but sometimes the mark will be capped).

If it's a case of tutor losing the mark or some clerical error then the school can do some clever math to compensate his mark. Eg if he had to submit 3 coursework and 1 has gone missing, they can do some math with the other 2 marks to make it up to whatever the mark would have been if he had all 3 marks taken into account.

If it is entirely the school's fault then there's no need for your son to do any re sits or ruin his summer.

I hope you get to the bottom of this. It just sounds rather incredulous.

And fwiw I'm taking oh 2 weeks of holiday. I had been traveling though. Last 2 months I've been to 2 conferences in between marking exams, attending exam boards and graduation.

drcrab Fri 22-Jul-11 20:29:03

Another thing: this may be of small comfort but at my institution first year doesn't count. So as long as he can proceed to the next year he shouldnt be too worried. But of course I would be concerned at the way they've dealt with this situation in the first place. (I'm not saying to ignore! I'm just trying to maybe help you through the weekend!).

Is it a possibility to swap to second year somewhere else if DS is unmotivated and upset??

funnyperson Sat 23-Jul-11 01:49:45

drcrab thank you. Impressed to read your itinerary -it sounds like fun.

DS loves his university and college to bits as do the whole family as my dad lectured there and I was raised on its steps. He likes the whole left wing international ethos thing. So he isn't going to transfer- he worked very hard to get there! Entry is very competitive.

I am hoping the exams office sorts it all out.

But I am asking myself all sorts of questions. Is it really possible in the twenty first century that tutors at a highly respected college of the University of London can be allowed not to mark work and feedback to students? Can they flout the university/school written policy on marking/feedback and get away with it? Is it possible this happens a lot but other students are easily swayed into signing the form to repeat the year (as happened to DS girlfriend incidentally-she wasnt given an option to resubmit, but was flustered and signed a year of her life away on the dotted line where the tutor pointed)

Would this then be a hidden source of income to the uni given that many are international students?

But what happens when students and parents have read the school regulations, and know their rights, and have expectations, and think of staying on as something you might choose to do as a postgrad degree, and don't think an immediate offer of a repeat undergrad year is a 'favour'.

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