Students Critical of January Exam Change

In an email sent to students on November 10th, LSE director Minouche Shafik announced a change to the January exam dates. The window was initially set for Tuesday, 2 Jan – Friday, 5 Jan; it has now shifted to Wednesday, 3 Jan – Sunday, 7 Jan, beginning a day later at the inclusion of the weekend.

Director Shafik cited Student Staff Liaison Committee (SSLC) feedback, Students’ Union consultations, extra time to return to LSE following the holidays, and reasonable spacing between exams as reasons for the change. The director also announced plans to address student feedback that the 2 Jan start date was too early, ensuring future week 0 exams will start no earlier than the end of the first week of January. To compensate for any inconveniences this change could bring about, LSE will provide a free lunch and refreshments to students who sit an exam during this period, and to staff who work on the weekend dates.

A statement put out by the LSE SU Sabbatical Officers stated that LSE contacted them on 31 October about the potential change aiming to improve the January exam period, particularly about the addition of the weekend to the exam window. However, the aforementioned SSLC feedback has been put into question, with student representatives from multiple departments stating that both the change in dates and the inclusion of the weekend was not discussed in their meetings. This contestation over student input into the changes is the latest in a trend questioning the lack of transparency within LSE and its Students’ Union.

In her student-only forum two weeks ago, Director Shafik couched the discussion of exam changes in the context of her plans to change LSE’s infamously dismal student satisfaction. The wider student response to this change has not been as positive as she may have hoped. Although there are plans in place to delay future January exams, some current students question how significant a difference this year’s one-day delay makes – particularly when its trade-off means sitting exams during the weekend. Some felt this change occurred too late to make a meaningful difference; particularly for a significant amount of non-EU international students (currently comprising roughly 67% of LSE’s student population) who had already purchased plane tickets to return by the original 2 Jan date, to avoid the sharp increases of a last-minute purchase during the already costly Christmas/New Year period. Others expressed frustration over the window’s move into the weekend, which could potentially interfere with plans students had made prior to the announcement. For some students, the move will also remove any down-time between the end of Michaelmas Term exams the start of the Lent Term which begins the next day, Monday 8 January.

This is also not the first change around the January exams students have experienced; MSc students from the department of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences were earlier given the option to move one module’s planned Jan exam to an online format administered 14 December (however, because LSE required a unanimous vote from the MSc cohort, the change did not go through).

Director Shafik has discussed plans to permit in-year exam resits in future years and modify undergraduate curriculums to make assessments less exam-heavy, but no timelines as to when this can be expected and how different departments will be affected have been announced. When discussing the enactment of the changes at the student forum, the Director explained that any modifications to exam dates must be approved by the British government’s Competition and Market Authority. Such changes, she said, may amount to false advertising of course content and lead to concerns of anti-competitive behaviour.

The initial email also announced that the exam timetable would be released mid-November, rather than early December, to allow students more time to plan accordingly. LSE has delivered on this: the timetable is now available to students as of the 16th November.

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