The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has warned that optional resits in this year’s summer assessments – approved last week among a slew of new measures – “could place great pressure” on August’s supplemental exam period and raise questions about when the next academic year starts.
Trinity’s University Council last week approved a set of measures that mean students can opt to retake exams in order to improve their grades, even if they pass the first time.
Speaking to The University Times, John Walsh, IFUT’s Trinity representative, said the union “broadly” supports the measures – approved in place of a no-detriment policy called for by students – put in place for summer assessments.
But, he warned, “if you have a very high level of resits, that could place great pressure on the supplemental session. So effectively the supplemental session could turn into a second annual session, and we’d be keen to avoid that, mainly for the sake of students”.
“I’d argue it’s in the interest of students either to graduate or to achieve progression by August, rather than extending it beyond that”, he said.
Walsh added: “If, say, a student defers as a first attempt – like defers from May to August as a first attempt – completely fair enough, but if they then have the right to request a resit, or if they have to undergo a resit, that would delay their registration for the next academic year.”
“So that potentially poses a big challenge for the College in whether the new academic year starts on time for all undergraduate years. And that’s something – and in fairness, that’s a very complicated issue – that’s something that needs further clarification and discussion with staff as well as student representatives.”
“I think we broadly support what the senior lecturer and the vice-provost are trying to do”, he said.
“The spirit of those proposals is that we should exercise discretion as much as possible in favour of students and there’s a long-term practice in Trinity that discretion is always exercised in favour of the student and most of those proposals.”
Last week, IFUT hit out at the government for overlooking the “huge contribution” of academics in developing alternative assessment models for this year’s summer exams.
In a press statement, Joan Donegan, the general secretary of IFUT, condemned outgoing Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor – who praised many higher education stakeholders for their efforts in developing online assessment tools – for “pointedly” refusing to thank lecturers.
“Staff in all academic departments have volunteered thousands of unpaid hours to speedily develop what is, in effect, an entirely new exam assessment system”, Donegan said.
On Wednesday, Mitchell O’Connor reassured students that the qualifications they achieve this year will be valued the same as in any other year and said that the “efforts being made across the sector” to safeguard the integrity of these qualifications “are nothing short of remarkable”.