Bristol Uni students given two days’ notice for exam after department leaked coursework answers

The answer sheet was accidentally released alongside the four-day coursework assessment


Third year engineering students undertaking a Signals, Sensors and Control unit at the University of Bristol were told on Monday that they would have two full days to prepare for an exam that will take place tomorrow.

This comes after a solutions file was uploaded to Blackboard and released along with the coursework assessment that was due to be completed throughout this week.

After this was brought to the attention of Mark Schenk, a senior lectuer in Aerospace Engineering, he sent an email to students affected by this, which said: “It has been determined that the assessment is now void and cannot run in its current format, so all students should cease work on this assessment with immediate effect.

“We are currently investigating the options available to enable students to complete an assessment.”

Students taking the unit soon discovered that their coursework assessment would be converted into a download-upload two-hour exam paper, which is scheduled to take place on the morning of Thursday 18th May, thus leaving them with only two full days to prepare.

An Aerospace Engineering student, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told The Bristol Tab: “Everyone makes mistakes and we completely understand that, but we are now supposed to take an exam, for which we have no past papers or example exercises for, in less than two days’ time.

“The exam is in thirty hours and we have absolutely no clue about what kind of tools are allowed.”

The student went on to say that their exams in first and second year as well as this January had also been plagued by various problems, they said: “The level of uncertainty and stress this situation is causing is already really high and I have no doubt it will, once again, highly affect our performance in our other assessments.

“We for once just wanted a normal exam season with no unrelated problems.”

They finished by saying: “We are simply tired of always being disadvantaged while staff make all the mistakes they want and nothing happens. We can’t forget that failing this exam can mean a lot for our overall grades and consequently our future.”

Another student said: “The nature of the subject involves long-winded calculations that no one would do by hand in the real world. The new paper is open book and they’ve said we’re allowed to use the program MATLAB to help us with questions but with two hours to do it it’s a bit unrealistic to be setting out long problems in MATLAB.”

They added: “Everyone’s a bit pissed off that students are always heavily penalised if they submit slightly late or don’t write things up in the correct format yet when the uni makes a major fuck up it seems like they have no repercussions.”

In an email discussing the new exam arrangements, the Head of Aerospace Engineering, Professor Steve Burrow, apologised to students and said: “We understand the disruption incidents like this can cause and we have had this foremost in our minds when deciding on next steps.”

The email also said: “Due to the complexity of the unit demographics (there are students from eleven programmes across four departments with differing progression and award criteria taking this assessment) it is not possible for us to provide a single mitigation approach that can be applied to all students and situations. Further, ‘no detriment’ mitigations can only be applied by exam boards.

“You should approach the new assessment with the intention of achieving the best mark that you can and note that you are still required to pass the unit in the same way that you were before the change in assessment.”

A spokesperson for the University of Bristol said: “A four-day timed assessment exam released to Engineering students earlier this week unfortunately contained the answers. As a result, the assessment was no longer valid and an amended format has been required to ensure students are adequately assessed on the topic.

“This is clearly not the high standards that we set for ourselves at the University of Bristol, and the incident has been formally recorded and will be investigated fully. We apologise for the inconvenience and upset this has caused students, and have worked to ensure those affected will not be disadvantaged by this incident.

“The exam has been changed to a two-hour exam format, designed to reflect the preparation students will have done for the four-day timed assessment format.”

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