Institute of technology insists upgrading of marks was correct

CORK Institute of Technology has insisted that the upgrading of around 100 students originally deemed to have failed part of their final exams proves the independence of its appeals system.

But the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) claims the change to pass marks for more than half of a class of nearly 200 students – one with a grade of just 11% – in the economics module earlier this year highlights the need to have the exam marking and appeals systems scrutinised.

The results were originally submitted in January after exams at the end of the first semester for final-year students on a business studies degree course. But it is understood that the fail marks awarded to at least 100 of them, some well below the required 40% pass mark, prompted CIT officials to seek to have all marks considered by an examination appeals board.

While this was not commented on by CIT registrar Dr Barry O’Connor, he insisted that proper procedures had been followed in relation to the matter. He also rejected suggestions that a “no-fails” policy had operated in this case, in which no student failed the module after the appeals board’s deliberations.

The board – comprised of a handful of senior academics nominated by CIT’s academic council – is in existence year-round and considered reports from the original examiner and an external examiner from Dublin Institute of Technology, as well as an outside examiner from National University of Ireland Galway and the head of department.

“We’re completely satisfied that the exam appeals system is independent and that we applied the principles we are required to apply in terms of fairness and consistency to this group of students,” Dr O’Connor said.

“There would be hundreds of students each year who would not agree that we have a no-fail policy and our overall examination results are in keeping with national trends,” he said.

Dr O’Connor added that there is no question of external influence or pressure on the appeals board, either by college officials or by academics.

The unusually high level of upgrades was raised by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland (TUI), which represents the lecturer whose original marks were brought up by the appeals board, in February and March. The union has also sought a review of the overall marking and appeals process.

“Our main concern is in having a review of the process and in protecting the professional integrity of our member,” said TUI executive member and CIT lecturer Pat Ahern.

The highly unusual case follows recent concerns about grade inflation in Irish third level institutions designed to improve overall student results.

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