A misdirected email from the University of Oxford’s Medical Sciences Division revealed an examination timetable “for tutors”, which identifies first-year medicine undergraduates that were most likely to fail.
The timetable included the names, instead of candidate numbers, of those on the pass/fail borderline, and thus disclosed the students required to sit an additional exam.
Scholars required to re-sit exams are known as “prelims”, which entails students to take a verbal “viva voce” test, where they are questioned on a topic and awarded a pass for each section if they answer all of the questions correctly.
A spokesman for the university said: “An apology was sent to all affected students as soon as the mistake came to light. The Medical School is taking steps to make sure this type of incident does not happen again.”
Regarding the issue, an Oxford medic told Cherwell, the university’s newspaper, that the decision to send the email was “dumb” and “mean”. Another student said: “I am disappointed by their blaming of the mistake on our requirement for knowing about vivas as soon as possible.
“But ultimately it was just a mistake, and I think some people are blowing this out of proportion.”
Responding to the breach of anonymity, Oxford Medical Students’ Society claimed the situation “may have some distressing consequences” for some students. They said: “We have become aware of what appears to be an honest mistake on the part of the medical school, with regards to the viva list for first-year examinations.
“Oxford MedSoc is not involved in the setting or marking of any medical school examinations, nor any other part of the medical course at Oxford, but would encourage anyone affected by this to contact our dedicated welfare reps in full confidence.”
A similar incident occurred in 2017, when Oxford accidentally revealed the names of the nearly 500 Moritz-Heynan scholars, after students were CC’d, rather than BCC’d into a group email.
In January 2018, Oxford’s Hertford College exposed personal details of 200 unsuccessful candidates.
On two occasions, the university’s chemistry department circulated the names and colleges of second year students, including the number of exams they failed.