Apr 7, 2020

Biochemistry School ‘Strongly Against’ No-Detriment Policy

Final-year biochemistry students were told that the school was opposing the policy ‘in order to protect the reputation of your degree programme’.

Cormac WatsonDeputy Editor
Anna Moran for The University Times

The School of Biochemistry and Immunology is strongly opposing the introduction of a no-detriment policy for final-year exams, citing concerns about the policy’s effect on the prestige of the degree.

An email to all final-year biochemistry students, sent from the course office and seen by The University Times, said the school was “strongly against” the no-detriment policy, “in order to protect the reputation of your degree programme and your future career prospects”.

The policy – called for last week in a petition signed by thousands of students – is set to be discussed tomorrow at a meeting of University Council.


Last week, Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff promised that College was taking calls for a no detriment policy “very seriously”, adding that “College officials will bring to the University Council next Wednesday a comprehensive package of measures to address your concerns”.

Instead of ordinary in-person examinations, the final-year biochemistry exam paper will be completed online, with much of the same format questions as other years, but the time limit for the examination will be doubled.

“Open book exams, longer exam times etc.”, the email said, “have the potential to devalue degree programmes in the eyes of employers. We are therefore cognisant of maintaining the highest academic standards that we can stand over and defend”.

“One of the criteria by which we mark student is by their demonstrating understanding of a topic. Therefore, you should always aim to put things into your own words. Inevitably, there is technical jargon and phrases that are commonly used – these will obviously not be held against you.”

“We expect that simple facts, names of enzymes, proteins etc. to be better than usual (you will be able to look up a name that you might forget) so focus more on how you put that knowledge together and how it addresses the question you have been asked”, the email added.

The campaign comes after Trinity notified students that both online and offline exams would be taking place instead of formal examination sessions in the RDS.

In an email to students last week, Senior Lecturer Mitchell said: “For some modules, the scheduled final examination will be replaced by an assignment. In other cases, an exam will be set. This will either be in a take-home format that can be completed offline and uploaded by a given time or in a real-time online format, where students will interact continuously with the online platform.”

The University Times revealed last week that the provost, vice-provost and senior lecturer have been given the power to make decisions on summer exams without having to consult College’s decision-making bodies.

College Board and University Council have agreed to delegate their functions to Prendergast, Barkhoff and Mitchell, who will be able to make decisions on matters relating to summer exams – a source of concern for many students – “without having to wait a month for Council or Board to meet”.

In a memorandum, circulated by email to members of University Council and obtained by The University Times, Barkhoff wrote that “urgent action needs to be taken to allow for changes to the exam regulations and practices as documented in the Calendar and course handbooks”.

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