Senior Lecturer confirms College’s plans to hold Schols in-person students

Students have expressed disappointment at the response the Senior Lecturer has given to their open letter

Senior Lecturer Professor David Sheperd  has confirmed that College plans to hold the Scholarship exams (Schols) in-person.

Concern has been raised by a group of students who sent an open letter to Sheperd calling for Schols to take place online this year.

In a email to the creator of the open letter, Sheperd’s expressed his “delight” that several senior fresher students were considering taking the exams. 

Continuing in his email, Sheperd said: “While it was impossible for the Foundation Scholarship exams to be held in person last year due to government guidelines relating to COVID-19, we are looking forward (as I am sure you are) with great anticipation to the government’s lifting of almost all restrictions on October 22 and a resumption of normal teaching and learning activities in the University wherever possible.”

He noted that “an important part of this return to normality is a resumption of long-established assessment practices” which includes “in person exams across the University and not least, for the purposes of awarding Foundation Scholarships”. 

He said that College “will offering a series of sessions to help students in preparing for in-person exams (including those for Foundation Scholarship) in the coming while”. This is “in recognition of the fact that many students, for reasons beyond the control of any of us, will not have had the usual experience of writing in-person exams before the upcoming Semester 1 examination session”.

“I look forward to details of these sessions being shared in the coming days” he continued.

Sheperd also noted that “as per the Calendar” there may be exceptions made for students in exceptional circumstances that prevent “students from sitting the Scholarship examination at the normal time in the SF year”. He said he is “happy to receive applications through the tutor for the students in question to be allowed to sit the exam in the JS year, so long as these applications are received by [him] during the specified period in the SF year”. 

59 students in total signed an open letter calling for Schols to be delivered online. The exams were held online last year, amid ongoing public health restrictions. 

Trinity News has spoken to the creator of the petition, Frank Wolfe, who said that he believes it is “very unreasonable to expect students who are sitting Schols this year to take in-person exams” as “their education in Trinity has in no way prepared them to perform in in-person exams’”.

In the letter, the students raised several concerns. They noted that should Schols take place in person this year, it would be the first in person exam that majority of senior fresher students would have done since their mock-leaving certificate exams.

Wolfe had remained optimistic the senior lecturer would be sympathetic towards their demands. 

However, following the reply of the senior lecturer Wolfe has expressed disappointment saying: “I think I’m speaking on behalf of almost everyone hoping to try for Schols this year when I say this is deeply disappointing.”

“We already know that Schols is a problematic institution; it heaps anxiety onto students and it’s deeply inequitable” he continued. 

“This year’s SF students have also had a really rough time of it so far in Trinity and many of us  are deeply frustrated by Trinity’s slow reopening, the administrative chaos this year, and inadequate support for students as it is.”

Continuing he said: “Pushing for Schols to be online, which is a simple and straightforward measure that worked last year and could relieve a lot of stress, seems like the very least we could ask for.”

“We appreciate the gesture of exam prep sessions being organised for SF students, but it falls far short.”

Commenting on the Senior Lecturer’s insistence of the long-held tradition of the Foundation Scholarship examinations, Wolfe emphasised the need for change in the format of how these exams are delivered.

“In the senior lecturer’s email, he described the ‘long-established’ assessment practices of in-person exams as an ‘important part’ of the return to normalcy, which he expects us to be ‘looking forward to’.”

“I can only try to emphasize that the fact that these assessment practices are ‘long-established’ speaks more to how outdated and archaic they are than anything else, and we could have ‘looked forward to’ a lot better from Trinity’s ‘return to normality’” he noted.

Wolfe has commented that he will be looking for alternative routes of assistance in the matter, possibly through Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU).

“We are of course looking to the Student’s Union for support, and we will look at any possible routes for appealing this decision.”

 

Jamie Cox

Jamie Cox is current News Analysis Editor for Trinity News and previously served as Higher Education Correspondent. He is a Junior Sophister Ancient and Medieval History and Culture student.