Oxford University has completely redesigned one of its core history exams with the explicit aim of giving more top grades to women.
Academics at the university – often ranked top in the world for history – will now allow students to do one exam at home, rather than in an exam hall.
The move – immediately attacked as a “soft” alternative – was made because authorities felt female students were getting too few first-class degrees.
According to the Sunday Times, the change was made in response to a “gender grade gap” which sees 32% of female historians bag a First class degree, compared to 37% of men.
As such, a second-year exam which previously would have been sat under strict conditions will now be much looser in form.
Instead of donning the traditional “sub-fusc” academic wear (pictured above), and submitting to a hard time limit, invigilators, and silence, students will be allowed to take the exam home.
The final form of the exam has yet to be agreed – but students are likely to be given similar questions to a timed exam and allowed to complete them over several days instead of a few hours.
The hope is that the exam will reward research skills rather than memorisation, or performance under pressure.
But the style will carry a much increased risk of plagiarism, and it will be virtually impossible to stop students asking other people for help.
An Oxford spokesman acknowledged that “the gender gap was a consideration” when making the change, but said timed exams will still be an “important” part of the course.
The university’s history course has proved a flashpoint for social justice issues recently.
Last month faculty members caved to student protests and instituted a compulsory black history exam.
Though, as Heat Street reported, campaigners dismissed the new module as a “small concession” and demanded even greater changes, though did not specify quite what they were.