Thursday saw another entirely foreseeable fiasco from the government as students in England received their A-level results. Ignoring teachers’ assessments in favour of an obviously flawed algorithm was always going to penalise students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the stories that have emerged over the past few days have been devastating. Now it’s been left to staff at this University and across the UK to clear up the mess the government has made. Our members have been doing their utmost since March for students in the midst of a pandemic, on top of their normal unsustainable workloads. Our colleagues working in admissions, outreach, and assessments, have been working flat out all week, faced with the impossible task of correcting wrongs done to students by the government.
These results have been botched in the most unjust and regressive way. They have jeopardised years of access and outreach work our members, colleagues, and students have done to widen participation for students from working class backgrounds, and those who are unfairly penalised for being BME, especially Black students. They will demoralise and discourage many students from even applying in the years to come, and we will all be poorer for it. We send our full solidarity to students whose marks have been downgraded and who face an uncertain future as a result.
Our students – past, present and future – deserve better than this, and so do we. We demand that the government admit the mistakes it’s made and set things right. We demand that the workings behind the algorithm be made public so that students and universities have full transparency, and that students be given recourse to a fair and free appeals process. We encourage everyone to write to their MPs, and to sign the NUS’s petition for an urgent overhaul. And we call on the University of Cambridge to speak out against the injustice of these results, and to do everything possible to persuade the government to rethink its policy with the utmost urgency.