Students who took modules in the Politics and International Studies (PAIS) department last year have complained about the quality of their exam feedback.
Many students believe that the department has failed to deliver acceptable feedback, with some receiving it late or not at all.
The module Introduction to Politics, or PO107, generated the most negative response from disgruntled students, particularly those who were in their second year at the time of taking the exam.
One of these students was a Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) undergraduate, who anonymously told the Boar: “I’ve contacted the PPE and the PAIS office in person and by email, but have received very vague responses.
“Someone told me that I should not expect to receive feedback until October, which is unacceptable. Imagine if I’d been someone who had to re-sit and I couldn’t access feedback before that! The PAIS department have a deadline which they’ve set themselves, and this has already passed.
“In my opinion, all students should receive feedback on the same day, and if they haven’t got it for all, they should release it for none. PO107 is not an enormously popular module and there is no excuse for this.”
Another second-year student said he received immediate feedback for the World Politics module, but nothing about PO107 for weeks.
The Boar contacted the PAIS department about the issue. Chris Hughes, the head of department, Andrew Reeve, the director of learning, teaching and assessment, and Justin Greave, the director of student experience and progression, responded saying that the department had actually met the deadline for the return of second-year marks, which was the week beginning July 15.
The department said that a number of students had misinterpreted the deadline date, and had thought that the deadline was July 15 itself.
They claimed that others wrongly assumed that exam feedback is covered by the University’s 20 working day turnaround policy: “Finally, we only release marks and then feedback close together – when the marks have completed their journey through the internal and external moderation processes – as we consider this best practice.
“This may be a little later than other departments that issue feedback with either no mark or unconfirmed provisional marks.
“This means that if students are given PAIS marks earlier by other departments’ systems they can only be provisional.”
They insisted that if anyone did not receive feedback on time and had contacted the department about the issue, it was rectified immediately.
However, others complained that the problem was not only about the timing of feedback, but that marks had been changed in many cases, and some of the comments contained spelling mistakes or were completely illegible.
Another student who has taken a module in the department said: “The feedback was given quite late, and the department didn’t provide any precise information before that.
“Most of the marks that were initially given to outside students through their own departments at the end of June were later changed – it is the case for me and two friends of mine, but I have also seen PPE students complaining about it on Facebook.
“Personally I was more bothered by the change of mark than by the delay.”
An Economics, Politics and International Studies student commented: “I had some spelling mistakes in my PO107 feedback which was frustrating, as I feel that in subjects like Politics, being advanced in English is essential for grasping linguistic nuances in an essay.”
The department did not comment on the changed marks or spelling mistakes, but added: “We have been pursuing a policy of continuous improvement in the delivery of feedback.
“As part of the improvement strategy, we look forward to sharing their reports with the Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) and discussing further enhancements.
“We also look forward to discussions with the faculty representative about the outcomes of his recent survey of departmental practices.”
Undergraduate Social Science faculty representative Miguel Costa Matos said: “The department’s cluelessness about how many students had or had not received feedback is unacceptable.
“PAIS blames students for not communicating the issue, but the burden of making sure that feedback is sent is on the department, not students.
“While it’s excellent that PAIS offers individual exam feedback, it needs to make sure they keep the standards expected of a world-class department.
“We, the students, will settle for no less.”
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