Keep in-person exams at third level


Sir, – Before decision makers in higher education institutions heed the calls from students’ unions to run exams online, they would do well to read Carl O’Brien’s report “Exam answers in 30 minutes” (November 13th) on the extensive resources available online to help students to cheat, and William Reville’s article reminding readers of the phenomenon of grade inflation (“Grade inflation: lowering standards in higher education”, November 4th).

If exams are pushed online again many students will have gone for 2½ years without a rigorous assessment of their learning. Where exams are done remotely, students are free to compare notes with each other, and indeed to seek and receive help from strangers on the internet. Examiners therefore have no way to satisfy themselves that the work submitted is the student’s own.

We face the substantial risk that large numbers of graduates will lack the competence and skills that their awards would have certified in pre-Covid times. Employers and universities considering our graduates for postgraduate admission will learn not to take academic results or degrees as a reliable indicator of their knowledge and understanding.

This situation is liable to have wide-ranging consequences. It is especially unfair on the honest hardworking students who would never cheat in an exam. Let’s ensure that the idea that it pays to be dishonest is not the key lesson learned by students in this pandemic.

– Yours, etc,


Department of


Munster TU, Cork.