Degree scores ‘manipulated’ to boost league table performance

Dean Piercy (right) with son deputy dean Piercy (left)

AN EXTERNAL examiner has raised questions about the quality of economics degrees and motives of senior managers in the business department at Swansea University.

PICTURED: School of Management Dean Nigel Piercy (right) with deputy dean, and son, Niall Piercy (left) at graduation celebrations at the Marriott Hotel.

Professor Robin Bladen-Hovell, a Keele University economics professor who was appointed to assess the quality of the undergraduate economic programme, alleged that manipulation of results “seriously debases the standard of the degree”.

In the report, which was published on the staff intranet, Prof Bladen-Hovell criticised the School of Management for making a decision to “systematically re-scale marks”, despite strong objections of external examiners.

He continued to attack the quality and standards: “Anyone who argues that we should upwardly adjust the marks of students who are not up to the required standard has clearly lost the plot when it comes to quality assurance and standards, and the evidence adduced by the school management team to support the remaining arguments was, I’m afraid, pitiful or hidden behind confidentiality arising from disciplinary proceedings.”

The report did praise the teaching, well-structured modules and a good understanding of standards displayed by internal examiners, but went onto highlight the “lack of understanding” over quality and standards by the school’s senior management team.

Accusing the university of fixing results to move up tables, Prof Bladen-Hovell said: “If I were a cynic, I might be tempted to conclude that the adjustment of marks is a blatant attempt by the management team to increase league table performance by manipulation of degree outcomes.”

The professor concluded that he had “only qualified confidence” in the school and its assessment procedures.

Ilana Cohen, students’ union education officer said: “We are reassured the University have taken decisive action to rectify the issues identified in the external examiners report within the School of Management, though are concerned the situation initially arose.

“We are seeking full cooperation from the University in investigating the organisational processes of the School of Management which could have allowed students degrees to be compromised.

“We strongly encourage the University to contact all students affected to offer complete reassurance that the integrity of their degrees has not been affected.

“The students’ union is committed to ensuring all students receive fair grading and will be working closely with the institution and the School of Management to ensure students best interests are fully protected moving forward.”

External examiners are asked to review assessment materials and submit a “full and frank” report to the university.

This report comes after a series of blunders including a leaked staff memo that the school “is not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s, with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts” and a Waterfront investigation, which found that the dean had spent over £3k furnishing his office.

A Swansea University spokesperson said: “All external examiners’ reports are scrupulously considered, and the University acts appropriately and in a timely manner, informed by such reports, to ensure that the standards and integrity of degrees are upheld at all times.

The matters raised in this particular report had already been identified by our internal quality assurance monitoring processes, which concerned an issue with the processing of student marks in one part of the University. Decisive action was taken at an early stage to rectify that issue, prior to the receipt of the external examiner’s full report, and a report on the action taken will be provided to the external examiner in due course.

Our external examiners and students can have absolute confidence in the University’s assessment systems, quality assurance processes, and the standards of all our degrees and awards.”

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