Belfast Telegraph

Robert McNeill: Why poor Andrew is in a bit of a Catch 2:2 situation

You must admit Andrew Croskery has gumption. The graduate from Co Down has started a legal challenge to get his degree changed from lower to upper second.

Well, there's a novelty though, funnily enough, I have appealed an exam decision myself. It wasn't a legal challenge. I just wrote a letter of complaint about the C I got for Higher History as a mature student. I hadn't attended an evening class or anything, but just bought a textbook, memorised large gobbets of it, and turned up at the exam as a citizen.

Unfortunately, it appeared that, at Higher level (a Scottish thing), you were meant to display some original thought and grasp of the subject. Well, how was I to know that?

At school, I didn't complain when I got no marks at chemistry O-grade, a feat that even the teacher admired, as the exam had been based on multiple choice answers. “Your classic hallmarks of bewildering ignorance and chronic bad luck have seen you through again, McNeil,” he said. Fair comment.

None of this, of course, pertains to Andrew, a bright lad who maintains that better supervision at Queen's University, Belfast, would have seen him get a stonking good degree in electrical engineering, a subject you'd have thought left little margin for error.

Personally, I'd like a judicial review to have the words, Renfrewshire College Of Marxism And Plumbing scored off my certificate, and the legend, Oxford University For Clever People substituted instead. They could also take off Sociology — which was, frankly, a bit waffly — and substitute Astronomy With Mathematics. Something ruddy useful.

Andrew claimed he was denied the right to appeal in the normal manner because he'd already graduated, which sounds like a Catch 22. His lawyer said the university's stance breached his human rights. This used to refer to poor souls being tortured in dungeons. Clearly, it has come a long way.

Anthony also claims his 2:2 adversely affects his employment prospects. But it ought not to. These degree classifications, like most exams indeed, are all tosh.

And no one is helped by the fact that the current England education secretary, Michael Gove Minor, is an idiot: his rubbishing of people with third class degrees was outrageous. A lot of bright people get thirds. They tend to be likable, too, implying that there's something wrong with the exam system.

I've known people who got firsts, and they tend to smell a bit. They're also ruthless and also, arguably, evil. I got a 2:1, but only because the examiners couldn't read my handwriting.

I was listening on the news to the costs of being a student today. Horrendous. I think, after spending all that money, I'd want a 2:1 too. Lawyers are debating whether the court is the proper forum for Anthony's challenge. I wouldn't have thought it. What the hell do they know about electrical engineering?

Given the peculiarity of the case, the solution may be to let Anthony resit his exam. You'd have to worry about setting a precedent, but we could fall off that bridge when we come to it.

Given another chance, Anthony might even get a first though, personally, I'd never employ anyone with one of these. Too bright for their own good. And then there's the smell.

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