Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Queen's University sorry after glitch incorrectly fails medical students

Queen's University 'sorry' for computer glitch
Queen's University 'sorry' for computer glitch

Queen's University has been forced to apologise for wrongly failing final-year medical students because of a computer glitch over exam results.

The Russell Group Belfast medicine department, ranked 16th in the United Kingdom for the subject, told eight fifth year students they hadn't passed their written exams before Christmas.

It can now be revealed two of those students had in fact passed, despite having to go through stressful re-sits last month.

The original papers were marked through an optical mark reader using special software.

Due to technical upgrade issues, the error identification feature had not been set to the correct settings.

The Belfast Telegraph has been told the pair are now "feeling the pressure to catch up on time lost" for the next round of finals.

In an email sent to students on Monday, Professor Pascal McKeown, director of the Centre for Medical Education at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said sorry.

"Please accept my sincere apologies that these errors have occurred and for any confusion or distress caused," he said.

"I will be working with staff within the centre, school and university to put measures in place to minimise the possibility of errors such as these occurring in the future." Professor McKeown also said where a student should have received fewer marks, the mark will stay the same.

But it is understandable that students are angry at the treatment of their classmates, especially as the final practical exams begin in under two weeks.

A 23-year-old friend of the young doctors said it's humiliating for the department and a disgrace after paying high university fees.

"The department should be incredibly embarrassed and I genuinely think there should be some sort of compensation for the students who were failed," the friend said. "Being branded a failure is bad for the confidence especially as we go on to do our practical finals in less than two weeks.

"They've been put at a disadvantage to the rest of us because in January they took up two weeks when they should have been working for these exams but instead they were revising for the written finals all over again – and it's very different work.

"We pay our fees, you know, we work hard and what do we get in return, an apology and an X beside our names with a poor reputation among our peers as failures.

"They worked hard and passed and what happened next? They had a stressful Christmas and a huge knock to the confidence."

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