Image: Flickr / University of Saskatchewan
Image: Flickr / University of Saskatchewan

University of Southampton faces “shortage of invigilators”

The University of Southampton is asking postgraduate students to staff in-person exams due to a “shortage of invigilators”.

The shortage is linked to the pandemic, with its usual invigilation company seeing staff off sick or expressing fears about Covid-19.

This comes despite opposition to in-person exams, with 7,000 students voting for assessments to be held online in an All-Student Vote.

According to an online poll by Southampton University Students’ Union (SUSU), 95% of students favoured online assessments, believing that in-person exams were “unsafe”.

An email sent by the university reads: “The central university are asking staff and PGR students to be on stand-by to cover invigilation needs for in-person examinations during the Semester 1 assessment period (Monday 17 to Friday 28 January).

“We have relied on casual staff to invigilate. Unfortunately, a number of the new cohort have declined to act this time, due to worries about Omicron, or supporting family members in providing care for their dependents, as well as higher-than-normal sickness absences already declared.

Despite our best efforts, invigilators are continuing to drop out due to sickness, isolation, or general reluctance to take on work currently

– University of Southampton

 

“Despite our best efforts, invigilators are continuing to drop out due to sickness, isolation, or general reluctance to take on work currently.”

A spokesperson for the university confirmed: “It is very important that we have enough invigilators for our in-person exams so that they run smoothly.

“As a contingency this year, we have asked for volunteers from our staff to be on stand-by.”

Students are continuing to lobby the university over in-person exams.

SUSU president Ben Dolbear said: “I’m disappointed that the university has decided to press on with in-person exams this month. By an overwhelming majority, as evidenced in the results of our recent All-Student Vote, students do not want exams to be in-person, because they are worried about the risks of Covid for themselves and for vulnerable family members.

“In addition, pictures have been shared with me showing that there is a distinct lack of social distancing in exam rooms, with some suggesting they have had to sit closer to peers in exams than before the pandemic.

“There is also a lack of clarity from my colleagues in the university about, regarding Covid symptoms, when it is appropriate to attend an exam and when it is not.

“Furthermore, there is no clarity over support available to students who are required to miss an in-person exam due to self-isolation, leading some to suggest that they will actively decline to test for Covid-19 prior to attending an exam, leaving all students at increased risk.

The situation is chaotic, and we are still calling on the University to change its mind on in-person exams

–Ben Dolbear, SUSU President

 

“The situation is chaotic, and we are still calling on the University to change its mind on in-person exams.”

The University of Southampton previously said its decision to stage some exams in person rather than online was “in line with the government’s advice and expectation that on-campus activities can and should continue”.

“The balance between online and in-person assessment has been carefully considered to ensure it is in the best interests of our students’ long-term education with us.”

It also said that exam venues would have sufficient space to allow Covid safety measures to be put in place.

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