Fairness and academic freedom for students

A niggling doubt one faces all the time as a lecturer is whether one is being fair when grading a student’s work. After all you do have opinions about students and opinions can mean bias. The methods imposed upon us that supposedly ensure we are being fair to students certainly create the illusion that bias has been piped out of the system like rats. After all they have been invented by clever people approved by a committee of the latter, applied by slightly less clever people (us lot) and will be audited and externally validated by professor blah blah so they must be fair. Surely these prophylactics are better than the old system, where a hoary old lecturer could raise a finger in the air and say – ‘that student looks like they deserve a 2.1.’ The trouble is that now, rather than relying on arbitrary and irrational judgements made by the hoary we have substituted a largely unreadable matrix of educoded gobbledegook which does nothing more than ask the student to squeeze their work into whatever the latest fashion in incredibly complicated jargon filled marking schemes backed up by discipline benchmark statements (whatever those are) applied by an educational establishment with extremely dubious credentials and often very out of touch with the specifics of any particular discipline. In the creative disciplines, sorry by that I mean all disciplines, we should be encouraging the next generation to break the rules, not follow the blind dictates of us folk – and that means giving them academic freedom as well as us.

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