Only 49 students in the graduating class of 2014 were awarded a gold medal, a decline of 39% on the average of the previous five years, College documents show.
Gold medals are awarded to graduates who show “exceptional merit” in their degree exams. The criteria for the award vary between courses, with the arts and humanities requiring an average of 73% (with all papers above 70%) and maths and engineering requiring an average of 80%.
From 2004 to 2008, the number awarded had ranged between 46 and 65, but following a jump to 85 in 2008/9 – which prompted Aileen Douglas, the then senior lecturer, to note in a board meeting that “issues of marking and awarding of degrees are being considered by the University Council” – the number had never been below 75, with 78 students being awarded the medal in 2012/3, 80 in 2011/2, 82 in 2010/1, and 75 in 2009/10.
Of the 20 arts and humanities students receiving a medal for the 2013/4 academic year, eight had studied English and four studied law. Despite being among the courses with the highest minimum points, and having 15 foundation scholars among their ranks, dentistry and medicine only had one recipient each. 15 of 95 graduating scholars were awarded a gold medal.
When asked to comment on the drop, Senior Lecturer Gillian Martin declined to comment until she had investigated.