History theses will be examined by supervisors in new trial

The changes are to ensure thesis examiners are "most appropriately qualified"

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Beginning this term, the Oxford History Faculty will be trialling a new method of marking of undergraduate theses which will see thesis supervisors being included as one of the two examiners in most cases.

Formerly, supervisors were able to estimate the mark of a student’s 12,000-word essay but would have no say in the final result.

Bridge essays and interdisciplinary theses within joint schools will be excluded from the preliminary trial to allow joint schools’ committees have an opportunity to appraise the proposal.

A spokesperson for the History Faculty told Cherwell the changes were to “ensure marking is conducted by academics most appropriately qualified in the specialist areas addressed by undergraduate theses.”

They added: “The change has been brought in after a positive consultation with students and Faculty academics. The system is common in other UK universities, none of whom reported any problems or concerns when contacted by the Faculty.”

The trial will initially run for two years to allow the Faculty to assess its impact.

In light of the changes, one History graduate told Cherwell: “This seems sensible and, I think, reflects well on the Faculty that they are acting on such concerns, but of course will happen too late for me and my cohort.”

The student had “finals’ consternation” as a result of his thesis paper, for which he had a supervisor from outside of college.

“I received a much lower mark than myself and my supervisor anticipated, leading me to miss my conditions for an MSt place. It was obviously a very frustrating time, and did seem quite unfair.”

He stressed that he did not feel his teaching had anything to do with his lower than expected mark.

He added: “Responsibility for disparity in thesis marks and expectations should probably be located in the relationship between supervisors and the faculty, particularly in the understanding of what makes a good thesis.”

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President of the Oxford University History Society, Piers Armitage, told Cherwell: “It sounds like a sensible change.”

Theses will continue to be double-blind marked, and the Finals Board will use a number of strategies to ensure the views of one examiner do not overly influence the final mark.