Exams in the time of Covid-19

As if the excessive studying wasn’t enough, the fact that I find myself regularly having to consciously unclench my jaw can mean only one thing: it’s exam time. In a strange twist it seems that the UG is happy to add some extra insanity by placing extra hurdles to success.

I speak of the bizarre approach the university is taking to exams in light of the new Covid-19 restrictions. Government advice now encourages people to work from home ‘as much as possible’ but UG is still mostly requiring physical attendance at exams. How exactly packing students into exam halls and crowded corridors can help with this is beyond my understanding.

Of course, the directive is that students with Covid-19 symptoms stay at home, don’t attend exams and contact their exam committee to consider their circumstances who can perhaps permit access to an online exam. Seems reasonable on the surface, but it’s really not.

The strong messaging from most faculties is that Covid is now a ‘normal illness.’ To this end, it seems exam committees are only accepting Covid-19 travel restrictions or a vulnerability to the virus as valid reasons to access an online exam. Nothing about allowances or assurances for students with Covid symptoms or a positive test result who seem to lose out on the exam opportunity.

It is frankly a deranged strategy to punish students to protect them against the spread of Covid by avoiding their exams

Make no mistake, UG is playing a dangerous game. This approach means an asymptomatic student with a positive test or one with symptoms, who feels up to taking their exam, is expected to forgo this opportunity without a guarantee of an extra resit should they need it. All this while exam committees grant access to online exams to others.

There may be some sense in this as most of us appreciate that an advantage can exist when taking an online exam if the in-person sitting is not ‘open book’. It also reduces the burden on increasingly overworked academics. However, increasing the punishments for students to catch a highly contagious disease in a global pandemic and follow the rules is not a good approach. Support is much better.

This places students in a horrific position. Of course, we are morally and ethically bound to skip the exam if we have Covid-19 or Covid symptoms. That is not up for debate. However, it is frankly a deranged strategy to punish students to protect them against the spread of Covid by avoiding their exams. What do the UG hope to achieve or to teach us by punishing moral and ethical behaviour?

Perhaps I’m mistaken and they’ll be more lenient when asked given the recent changes in restrictions.

I hope so.

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