It’s humiliating that we’ve waited so long to abolish class lists

Let’s end the inequality colleges face through grade-shaming. Heck, we may even enjoy our degrees again

cambridge colleges Cambridge traditions class lists tompkins table

The archaic tradition of public shaming embedded in class lists propagates a dangerously sour edge of competition.

Moving to university should be a chance to escape the stagnant school culture of statistics which produces hostility, unhealthy rivalries and alarming pressures upon the most vulnerable students.  No legitimate academic purpose is achieved by publishing our grades on a bit of paper outside the Senate House for all to view. The public display of grades is counter-productively humiliating.

What should be most rewarding about the teaching at university is the very fact that you get out of your degree as much as you put into it. There is no-one to hound you about deadlines or subject you to overambitious expectations. If you are not putting the work in then you alone will face that burden of responsibility. The university values independent learning in all other areas so it seems entirely hypocritical that we still face a dangerously competitive system of ranking students alongside each other for maximum mortification.

Pondering the prospect of public humiliation while revising

Abolishing the class lists would also mean an end to the Tompkins Table, allowing the university to be transformed into a more level playing field with a greater inclusivity between the colleges. Most of the colleges in fact fall within a relatively small 10% range of each other; the class lists create grossly inflated divisions in academic standing. That said, the collegiate system is riddled with inequalities which mean that students are often receiving different standards of support depending on their college. Removing academic rankings between colleges would be one small step in the battle against the horrendous disproportion in financial and academic support across colleges.

It is time we were allowed to see ourselves as a member of the university – a wider, all-embracing community – rather than just being segregated into collegiate, academic boxes. Let’s face it, Trinity is most likely to stay at the top spot for a long time to come (it has dominated the coveted top position for the past six years) and equally those colleges who are consistently at the bottom of the list face being misrepresented with mature colleges such as Hughes Hall and St Edmund’s being consistently slated as the weakest links despite having significantly fewer undergraduates.

House of horror

Your college should only matter so much in that it is the place you live yet the standards in teaching and support across colleges varies wildly. Such rankings only serve to perpetuate unfair reputations about each college which in turn upholds inequalities in the collegiate system.

When applying to Cambridge students are led to believe that the university allows them the freedom to focus on their own work and passions without the artificial pressures that are all too prevalent in the school environment. Abolishing the class lists would liberate us from this final remnant of ranking which perpetuates unhealthy competition far more than it produces any kind of positive incentives to work harder.

It’s stressful enough without public shaming

Some students may well see the class lists as a positive incentive of motivation rather than a daunting threat of public mortification. But students should ultimately have control over their own work. Results, after all, are a deeply personal result of an individual’s efforts. The idea of a student’s performance being openly available for anyone to analyse, dissect and make uninformed judgements about is a disturbing invasion of privacy.

Class lists are one tradition that Cambridge could really do without.