Glasgow University ‘last minute’ makes online final exams in person over AI concerns

The changes has been made by the School of Life Sciences to ensure ‘grades awarded are reliable’

The University of Glasgow Life Sciences Department has told students that they will not be sitting online exams in two months, as expected, but in-person, handwritten ones.

Students, who have been told from the start of the year that 23/24 exams will be online, were sent an email on 13th February explaining their exams have been moved to in-person to make results more “reliable” in the face of AI tools.

Sarah*, a neuroscience third-year student, said that this decision has shocked them, saying “everyone is super angry” that they have been told “last minute” about these changes.

In an email to life sciences honours students, the School of Life Sciences confirmed that it will “not be holding the April-May 2024 Life Sciences exams for year three and four/final honours online” and instead students would be taking “invigilated, in-person, hand-written exams that take place on campus”.

The email read: “We will not be holding the April-May 2024 Life Sciences exams for Year three and Year four/final honours online. Instead, you will have invigilated, in-person, hand-written exams that take place on campus.

“This change is one we have thought about very carefully. We know many of you will be unfamiliar with this form of examination at university, but we wish to reassure you that we are very familiar with these exams, and in particular they are commonly used by the University across many subjects in science and engineering.”

However, in a blanket email to the entire university cohort 40 minutes earlier, Internal Communications said: “If your school has been preparing you for an online exam, in almost all cases that is how the exam will delivered”.

A newsletter from 13th October 2023 sent to all life sciences students said “all life sciences year three and final [fourth] year exams will be online. These exams are open book”.

A life-sciences student said this information was reiterated to them at the start of the semester (January). The students also sat a “mock” exam in December which the School claimed to be “a reflection of what to expect in the April/May exam diet”.

Life sciences students have been told that this is so the exams are “reliable” after fears of the “rapidly changing capabilities of generative AI tools”.

The school outlined the reason for the change in the email, saying: “We are taking this step so that we can assure all of you together with the quality bodies that accredit your degree, as well as your future employers that the Life Sciences Year three and Year four/final honours exams are reliable and the grades awarded are too.”

There are claims that specific subject staff were kept in the dark about this decision from the School. A student claimed that “course coordinators also weren’t aware of the changes until the night before” the email was sent to thousands of students.

Sarah said how “shocking” this decision change was and that this was affecting her revision. She said: “The university claims to care about students’ mental health but then doesn’t care about how such a degree-altering decision has an effect on all of us”.

The classes of 2024 and 2025 were some of the most affected by covid, with many having never smitten in-person exams, even in secondary school, due to lockdown regulations at the time.

Another student, Alex, also studying neuroscience said how “underprepared” she feels for the upcoming exam due to this change from online to in-person. She said: “They keep offering us “resources” to help with our studying, but no amount of resources can account for the lack of experience we have for in-person, handwritten exams”.

The university claimed that this change was made to assure that the “grades awarded are reliable”.

The Tab Glasgow has contacted University of Glasgow for comment. 

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Featured image via Google Maps.