The Oxford History Faculty is considering allowing students to sit their exams using a computer.
The move was announced in a November 4th email. The PPE administrator also announced that similar proposals were under consideration for PPE finalists.
Dr Andrea Hopkins, the History Faculty Administrative Officer and the organiser of the consultation, claimed the main benefit of typed exams would be “that markers could actually read them”.
According to Hopkins, the number of students with bad handwriting is rising because “basically no one handwrites things anymore”. For unpracticed scribblers, she said, writing a 3-hour essay proves to be “a real strain”.
Some students have welcomed the proposed changes. Lucy Gaughan, a Magdalen historian, described herself as “definitely in favour, with touch-typing lessons”. Meanwhile, Hannah Lovell, a first year at St Anne’s, said: “I’m keen as long as we retain the choice to handwrite if we want to”.
Despite the student body being “largely supportive”, Hopkins has acknowledged that not everyone was in favour. The main objections she had encountered were the “fear of accidentally deleting one’s exam half-way through” and concern that word processors “advantage touch typists”.
Tutors also have their reservations. Dr Gauci of Lincoln College, felt under-informed about the changes and stated: “I wouldn’t want to see it happen without making sure that the practicalities are really thought through”.
Some have expressed their opposition in stronger terms. Brendan Brett, a Somerville historian, criticised the proposed changes on Facebook as “a disgraceful suggestion”, “madness” and a “gimmick”.
He argued that handwriting “was peculiarly well suited to exams” as it can’t easily be edited. This forces the candidate to have a “definite plan”, an “organised approach” and a structured “marshalling of knowledge”. Brett worried that the changes would “undermine the academic integrity of this university”.
The changes are not likely to take place imminently, although Hopkins claimed that it was possible that this year’s Freshers would be typing their Finals.