Music Faculty u-turns on finals change after student uproar

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The Faculty of Music has withdrawn proposed changes to one of its FHS exams after strong criticism from students.

On Thursday 31st January the Faculty announced via email that the ‘Music Analysis and Criticism’ paper – in which students have to analyse an unseen score of 19th-century chamber music and write an essay on it in the course of three hours – would now be issued from the Faculty library at midday the day before the exam itself, to allow students to listen to the piece in advance. To the apparent surprise of the Faculty this move was received overwhelmingly negatively by the student body, who felt the Faculty had not thought the change through or consulted with finalists properly before announcing the change. 

Such was the initial backlash that the Music Faculty felt the need to issue a second email the following day reassuring students that the changes had been introduced “after consultation at UJCC and Faculty meetings” over several years, that the rubric of the exam would not change, and the changes were intended to assist in preparation for the exam. However, a report compiled by UJCC President Christopher Hill and submitted to the Faculty board on Tuesday 5th February contradicted these assurances. 

The report claims, among other things, that the Faculty made the change without any consultation with the UJCC, as no such consultation appears on the minutes of any UJCC meeting going back to 2015, meaning that no current students could have had input on the matter. Additionally, the report claims that the change was in contravention of university policy on changing courses by arguing that the change to the MAC exam was “substantial” and not entirely to the benefit of students, as supported by statements from students claiming that their decision to take the MAC module would have been affected had they known about this change in advance.

Further concerns were raised regarding the decision’s impact on students who require extra time, as those with disabilities and/or SpLDs will not be able to read and otherwise prepare as thoroughly as other students in the 12 hours between the paper’s release and the exam.  It has also been claimed that the change encouraged students to stay up through the night before the exam, impacting on student welfare. 

Many tutors only found out about these changes at the same time as students, meaning that previously useful exam preparation, such as collections, were rendered out-of-date. Most concerningly, the report claims that  some tutors and students may have been told far sooner than others and been preparing accordingly, possibly since the previous academic year. However, no evidence has been found to support the claim as yet.

Under pressure from students on all these points, and following advice from the Proctors, the Faculty announced yesterday that the changes would be reversed. No indication has been given as to whether the changes will hold true for those students in lower years.

Image Credit: Jonathan Sands