Transcribing “illegible” exam scripts has cost students £30,938 since 2013, representing an average cost of £144.57 per student.
According to University data released to Cherwell following a Freedom of Information Request, 214 students have been made to transcribe “illegible” exam scripts in the last six years, with 50 students sitting for transcriptions in the 2012/13 academic year alone.
University guidelines state that: “If a chair considers a script to be illegible, they must inform the Senior Tutor of the candidate’s college as quickly as possible.
“If there is a dispute between the Chair and the Senior Tutor as to the illegibility of a script or scripts, the question should be referred to the Proctors for a ruling.
“Chairs will need to return any illegible scripts, by hand, to the candidate’s college asking for them to be typed.
“The college will either make arrangements to use the Examinations and Assessments team transcription service or else will contact the Proctors for permission to type the script(s) in house.
“Chairs will be informed about the arrangements. The cost of the typing and invigilation shall not be a charge on the University.”
In addition to a £40 administrative fee for each four-hour transcription session, students are also charged £24 per hour to cover a £12 fee for both the invigilator and a typist.
The hourly pay rate for both is £10 per hour. This cost per hour has decreased since 2015/16 when the hourly rate charged to students was £20 for both the invigilator and typist, double their payment of £10 per hour.
The cost is also substantially higher than at other universities.
St Andrew’s University’s guidelines on exam transcriptions says that “Charges vary between Schools but are generally set at around £25 per transcription”.
Similarly, the University of York charges £8.08 per hour for transcriptions to cover the transcriber’s wages, almost a third less than Oxford.
Although official costs are not given, the University of Cambridge’s rules do not specify that students should bare the cost, although they do say that “the College may choose to pass on the associated costs to the student concerned”.
In 2017, Cambridge held a consultation with students on whether the university should allow all students to type in their exams, following complaints of a “downward trend” in students’ ability to write by hand, though this did not end written examinations.
Speaking to Cherwell, a spokesperson for Oxford University said: “Fees for the exam transcription service are designed to help cover elements including room bookings, IT support, staff payments and associated staffing costs such as employer contributions and recruitment fees.
“In practice, these fees only go some way towards covering the overall cost of the service.
“Many colleges offer financial support to students whose exam scripts require transcription – students should liaise with their colleges over the level of support available.
“The University offers alternative exam arrangements for students who require them, such as the use of a word processor for students with specific learning differences or physical disabilities that make writing difficult.”