Oxford’s most expensive doorstop, paperweight and missile may be under threat.
OUSU met on Wednesday evening to discuss whether action should be taken to stop producing paper copies of the University’s Examination Regulations, or the “Grey Book”, as it is also known.
A copy of the weighty University Examination Regulations is given to most new Oxford undergraduate or postgraduate students at the beginning of the academic year.
The volume, published by OUP, has over 1000 pages and a retail value of £45. Many students believe the mass production of these copies is a waste of paper and money especially considering that an online version has been available on the University’s administration website since 2006.
An amendment to the original motion, proposed by Stephanie Jones, was passed. As such, OUSU representatives will meet with the University Education Policy Support Section to discuss reducing the number of copies printed and policy regarding their currently wide distribution. Jones stressed that “internet access in college, University and non-academic buildings, and indeed in almost any location in Oxford, is ubiquitous” and as such, a paper copy of the regulations is redundant.
Also arguing for the motion, Rob Noble of Linacre College told Cherwell how he “knew of people who were using it to make origami swans on the day they got it. On the upside, there are people who have sold theirs on EBay for £10.”
Similarly, as the regulations are subject to constant revisions, hard copies of the Grey Book become out-dated very quickly, while the online version is constantly updated.
The University’s Central Administration department said, “Steps are being taken to substantially reduce the print run with a view to making the online version the principal source of information”. However, Stephanie Jones pointed out that this message has remained on their website since 01st December 2010, so “it is not easily discernible exactly what ‘steps’ have been taken to reduce the quantity of the Grey Book print run in the last year.”
OUSU voted to ensure that officials raise the issue with Senior Tutors, who are responsible for deciding whether the freshers in their college receive a copy or not. Indeed, a few colleges do not give each student a copy even now: Kellogg College’s policy is simply to keep 10 copies in their library.
The book lists all coursework and examination requirements. However, it is often seen as being exhaustive. It covers everything from University policy for the coincidence of religious festivals and holidays with the days of exams to the ‘Special Regulations’ governing postgraduate diplomas in Integrated Immunology. A tiny fraction of it is relevant to each individual student.
While many students admit the advantages of knowing the rules and regulations surrounding exams can be important at various stages during a degree, the book is famed throughout the University for having more useful daily applications, simply because of its weight and thickness.
Second year Archaeology and Anthropology student John-Louis Loewenthal, who is running for Environment and Ethics representative in the St Hugh’s JCR elections next week, feels very strongly about the amount of waste caused in the annual distribution of these Regulations. He told Cherwell, “In the age of the Internet, students are likely to make the online version their first port of call anyway. They should be able to request a copy if they wish, but the process of ensuring every student has one is a waste of money and paper, which could be put to better use.”
“While students might be inclined to consult the regulations before their finals, you’re looking at a three or four year period in which a lot of the rules could have changed and others might have become invalid. If the University is going to keep the Grey Book at all, they should offer an updated version to every student at the beginning of every year, and this would be up to four times as wasteful.”
However, it appears that not every student would be sorry to see the back of the Grey Book. Second year Tom Moynihan expressed concern at the rapid advance of modern technology, saying, “This is the most recent chapter of the Kindle revolution. This is the Ocado of literature. This is the Facebook of books. How long will it be until our own bodies have URLs?”