Do departments’ responses to the strikes put students at a disadvantage?

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In the face of strikes, KCL departments have found different ways to address issues regarding student assessments, however, this might mean some students miss out on achieving core qualifications? 

It has been three weeks since the strikes have commenced and as things have come to an end, departments have begun to address issues regarding students’ assessment. Several departments have responded to strikes differently. For instance, the English Department has extended its deadlines for third-year dissertation students and has made exams for all levels prior disclosure. The Departments of Political Economy has also extended their dissertation deadlines for third-year students. Similarly, the War Studies Department as well as the History Department have extended deadlines for essays due. In addition, the Department of European and International Studies has informed students that topics not being covered will not come up in exams and extended the dissertation deadline for third-years. Other departments, such as French and Philosophy have not given any information to students about what actions they plan to take. However, lecturers in philosophy have explained that there might be speculation that material not being covered will not be assessed, however examinations in philosophy are at students’ disposal, meaning students choose which topics they wish to cover.

What can we make of these responses and how will they affect students’ degree? For instance, removing topics being assessed can interfere with the qualifications required for a degree. Indeed, to be considered a philosopher, there are certain topics you need to cover, and each degree has its criteria for completion. A student with a given degree who missed out on important topics in that course will be less knowledgeable than one who had the opportunity to learn it thoroughly. Evidently, the strikes interfere with students’ learning and removing material assessed could have effects on the degree obtained by students. However, we cannot solely blame departments since they most likely choose to re-evaluate the extent of the assessment in order to help students in examinations. But does it really help students? Not necessarily, since some might have the option to self-teach the material missed but it might not be as efficient as the hours of interactive teaching they are missing. Programs such as History, Politics, or English, topics that are mainly assessed over essays based on reading, are easier to self-study so the departments’ response to strike will not drastically change the students’ degree. Nevertheless, topics such as Politics and Philosophy are crucially centered around critical thinking generated by group discussion. Given the circumstances, students can take the initiative to set up their own group discussions and study sessions to further their learning.

The better alternative seems to be to follow the footsteps of the English department and make exams prior disclosure. In doing so, students are still examined thoroughly on the content they are required to know while receiving a helping hand for those who might’ve needed to self-teach. Departments have tried to help students during these times of strikes, however we can question whether their decisions put students at a disadvantage in comparison to other university students pursuing the same degree who received a full period of academic teaching. Nevertheless, as students, we can better our current situation by taking matters in our own hands and setting up group discussions and study sessions to stimulate critical thinking.

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