Oxford “History”: More Surrender to the Egalitarians

Fresh from its capitulation to a few dozen African students “demanding” that the history syllabus be changed to include more Black figures, Oxford is in the process of changing the history exams themselves to engineer more women to get First Class degrees[1], at the behest of a few dozen female mediocrities and their male supporters.

As is well-known to examiners in our better universities, women consistently score less well than men at the top end of timed, written examinations. So some Oxford history dons are proposing that women should be allowed to answer some of the papers at home away from the “stressful” environment of the exam room. This procedure will of course mean that no examiner will know who actually composed the answers – Google, professional question answerers (of which there are many), friends and family? Given that history questions are answered by essays, and that success in the “Oxford essay” has been a door-opener to the higher ranks of the Civil Service for 100 years, this will surely be the end of the value placed on it hitherto[2].

No bad thing too some may say, given the approach to Brexit of some recent leaders of the present-day Civil Service, but the mooted change will surely bring into question the value of the whole Oxford history degree.

Timed Examinations are the best forecaster of real life performance

As an examiner in Engineering in 5 different universities over a 27 year period, this writer is an ardent believer in the value of timed, end-of-year examinations in both calculational and essay based examinations as the best possible honest, checkable way of preparing minds for life after university. Exams are stressful, but so is life from time to time.

During a career in almost any field, people are judged and remembered by their reaction to crises. Quick thinking, clear decision-making and determined follow-up are what counts. Of course those who might be termed plodders are necessary members of any organisation, as is calm day-to-day management. But for real leadership (which Oxford has always implied it is good at) the timed, written, end-of-year university course examination is the best indicator of ability to perform later in life in fields having a significant intellectual content.

End Notes

[1] It’s not the distinction these days that it was 50 years ago. A total of 120,000 “firsts” were awarded in 2016 compared with under 5,000 in 1966, when the total number of graduates per year was 52,000.

[2] One can only guess at the reaction of Prof. Niall Ferguson of Magdalen College, Oxford (“Empire”, “House of Rothschild”, “Pity of War”, etc).

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