An open letter signed by 1,600 finalists has asked the University to give finalists their predicted grade as a “guaranteed minimum” in light of disruption caused by COVID-19. 

The letter, which was written by finalist Ferdinand Otter-Sharp, reads, “It is fairer to judge students on their performance while at Oxford rather than their ability to study effectively in hugely varied home environments while dealing with the extraordinary mental stress of being isolated during a global pandemic which will have hugely varied effects on students”. 

Otter-Sharp added to this in correspondence with the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Martin Williams, saying, “The minimum grade utilises the large amount of information about aptitude and attainment that our tutors have gathered about us as well as any past assessed work in order to assign students a predicted grade that would be a guaranteed minimum mark regardless of exam performance.” 

“This is not a proposal to completely cancel finals. Oxford students have been preparing hard for finals and are not the type to settle for a minimum grade. The proposal is to provide a safety net, to help those most disadvantaged by the current situation”

Martin Williams has given a statement in response to the letter, saying, “I appreciate the considered and constructive tone of the Oxford Finalists letter, it is greatly appreciated at this time. As rightly noted in the content, the pandemic is having a huge effect on students, who have been forced into an academic limbo, through no fault of their own, and I sympathise.” 

“Without question these are extraordinary times, that are having unprecedented impact on the way we live. There are a lot of unknowns for us all, but the University is working hard to alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty that our students are feeling, and will provide more information to our community about Trinity term teaching and exams in the next few days as the situation becomes clearer.”

This comes as Cambridge announced today that they will be cancelling exams for first and second years, and offering finalists their classification from their second year as a minimum assuming they pass finals. 

When asked about Cambridge’s proposal, Otter-Sharp noted, “there would be an extraordinary disparity between the treatment of disadvantaged STEM students and of disadvantaged humanities students if Oxford were to copy the exact specifics of Cambridge’s safety net”. 

Unlike in Cambridge, where all students take exams in first and second year, humanities students in Oxford generally do not sit exams in second year.