The days of publicly listing Cambridge student grades are numbered

The days of publicly listing Cambridge student grades are numbered
Some privacy, please. Source: Twitter/@CambridgeNewsUK

The University of Cambridge may soon allow students to easily opt out of graduating class lists, student publication Varsity reports.

The university’s executive and policy-making body passed the proposal Monday morning to not make it compulsory for the names of all graduating students to be printed outside the Senate House alongside their grades and college unless they consent to it.

Graham Virgo, pro-vice-chancellor of Cambridge told Varsity: “Following a recommendation by the General Board, at a meeting of the Council on 11 December it was agreed that, in future, any student will be able to opt out from having their name published in a class list outside the Senate House and in the Reporter, without needing to disclose reasons for the opt out.”

The proposal will now need to be approved by Regent House, the University’s highest governing body, which will likely take place in spring. If passed, it would mean that students will only need to check a box on whether they would like their name to be published in Senate House class lists as well as the university’s official journal, Cambridge University Reporter.

This is seen as a great success for Cambridge University Students’ Union (CUSU), as they had been campaigning against class lists since 2015 for the “distress and harm” they cause to “countless” students.

Martha Krish, CUSU education officer, told Varsity:

“The proposed change is a massive improvement on the previous system where the ability to opt-out was in theory available for anyone with a ‘genuine need’ but in reality, the bureaucracy involved meant that this was not the case.

“It has been long anticipated and I am so proud to have sat on the committees and been involved in the conversations that finally brought about the change that students demanded.”

Class lists have been a part of Cambridge’s tradition for centuries. In 2017, 222 different class lists were published. They are also placed online in the Cambridge University Reporter.

However, their existence has been cause for controversy, as many have claimed that publishing such a list would damage students’ welfare. Students have suggested that it promotes an unnecessary culture of grade shaming. Other reasons for adopting an opt-in system are students’ privacy rights and the possibility of students not wanting to be associated with their printed name, especially for those in the transgender community.

The battle to alter this system has been ongoing for years. In 2015, the petition ‘Our Grade, Our Choice’ circulated on and received 1,200 signatures. It called to give students “the choice of whether or not they are on these class lists”.

It was revealed in February that new EU privacy laws, which will come into effect May 2018, may deem these class lists as illegal unless students give their active consent for their exam results to be displayed. The General Data Protection Regulation asks for “explicit consent” of “special categories of personal data”. It is still unclear if this also applies to class lists and if the UK would even fully adopt these practices. Currently, only Cambridge is affected by these proposed changes as no other university publishes class lists in such a manner.

In recent years, the University has stopped displaying all grades, with 39 names omitted in 2016 and 87 names in 2017. Under its current plan, students need to cite medical evidence that the publication of their names would directly affect their well-being.

Regardless of their appearance in the Senate House lists, all graduating students would still have their names published online in the Reporter, as there was no procedure that allowed for a possible removal.

The University of Oxford stopped making exam lists public in 2009 after 40 percent of students chose to not have their grades displayed following the introduction of a similar opt-out system.

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