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Education Quality and Policy Office

 

The form, content, and assessment of courses are governed by University Ordinances which are proposed by the Faculty Board or comparable body concerned and then approved by the General Board. Due Notice must be given to all parties about any changes to course delivery or assessment so that no candidate is disadvantaged. Regulations indicate how and when this should be done, usually by a Faculty Board Notice published in the Reporter. Educational and Student Policy can provide further advice about any aspect of the approval process on request.

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General notes

Late approval for changes to examinations will only be given if it is demonstrated to the Education Committee that no candidate would be disadvantaged and that necessary measures have been taken to ensure that candidates are aware of the changes.

Before considering changes to the nature of assessment it may be useful to read the General Board's policy on forms of assessment. For more information please see:

Institutions are advised to:

  • take care that the Notice fits within the scope of the relevant Regulations;
  • ensure that any institutions which borrow affected papers are consulted and notified in good time; it is the responsibility of the borrowing institution to ensure that the changed paper continues to meet the needs of its own courses;
  • consult the Student Registry about any timetabling issues if extensive changes to examinations are proposed;
  • ensure that all changes are made with due consideration to students and that Directors of Studies and students are advised of all changes in good time.

Types of Notice

There are three main types of Notice which are differentiated by increasingly significant changes.

Type of Notice and example

Details and further guidance

Approval needed from

Process

Faculty Board (or comparable body)

e.g. changes to Supplementary Regulations, Notice of variable subjects

The extent to which Faculty Boards may publish Notices regarding course content is outlined in the relevant course's Regulations.

Faculty Board only

Faculties/departments should send details straight to the Draftsman for publication in the Reporter.

Form and Conduct (F&C) Notices

e.g. changes to the examination

F&C Notices detail how modes of assessment will change in relation to the same examination from the previous year, e.g. changes to:

  • the rubric or structure of an exam paper;
  • the number of questions that candidates must answer, or which are included;
  • the type(s) of question(s) included;
  • preparatory work required;
  • requirements for the submission of assessed work (although Faculty Boards may be required to publish this information in a formal Notice - see above).

F&C Notices should be limited to indicating changes since the previous year and should apply to all forms of assessment.

For further information please see the:

Faculty Board only

Faculty Board-approved F&C Notices should be sent to Educational and Student Policy, which will arrange publication in the Reporter.

Material for Notices should reach Educational and Student Policy in good time before the publication deadlines which are [for any part of an examination held during]:

  • Michaelmas Term and Christmas Vacation [not later than the] last day of the previous Full Easter Term.
  • Lent Term and the Easter Vacation [not later than] 13 October prior to the Lent Term.
  • Easter Term and the Long Vacation [not later than the] last day of the previous Michaelmas Term.

Changes to Tripos Regulations

e.g. introduction of a new examination paper or the abolition or suspension of an existing one

Proposals for minor changes to Regulations should include:

  • the rationale for the proposed changes;
  • the date by which the proposed changes are to take effect;
  • confirmation that the change has been approved by the Faculty Board (and School as appropriate)
  • details of the necessary changes to Regulations and/or a draft Notice for publication;
  • a revised programme specification (where relevant), including confirmation of course and paper level JACS codes.*

For major changes to Regulations please see developing proposals for new or substantially revised courses.

Faculties and departments should also consider the information provided to prospective students in prospectuses and on websites and ensure that, as far as possible, commitments to students who have already applied for a particular course or programme are honoured.

*For further information about JACS codes please see the:

Faculty Board and then the General Board via its Education Committee

Proposals which have resource implications should also be discussed with Officers of the Council of the School before they are sent to the Education Committee

Institutions should consult their Educational and Student Policy contact as early as possible so that they can liaise with the Draftsman to help draft the Notice and advise whether the changes are:

  • minor (e.g. alterations to a paper title or the length of an assessed essay) and can be approved by the Officers on the Education Committee's behalf. Proposals should be published in Reporter no later than the division of the Easter Term in the year preceding entry to the course.
  • major (e.g. a Tripos revision of or new Part) which may require a Report to the University and discussion by the Education Committee. Proposals should be submitted as early as possible, preferably by the start of the Lent Term.

Following approval by the Education Committee a Notice will be published in the Reporter.

Changes to MPhil Regulations

As above for Tripos Regulations

Degree Committee, Faculty Board, General Board's Education Committee

As above for Tripos Regulations

See also the guidance about illegal combinations of papers, special circumstances and cases of incuria.

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Drawing up Regulations and Supplementary Regulations

Regulations should be framed to provide continuity for courses and examinations while allowing for an appropriate degree of flexibility. The General Board expect Regulations to contain the following detail:

  • standing of candidates for the examination (i.e. previous academic or residential requirements);
  • duties of examiners and assessors and the form of the published class list;
  • structure of the examinations, including at least the form (e.g. written paper, submitted essay) of each element of the examination and its duration.

Other details which the Faculty Board may wish to specify can be included in Supplementary Regulations. These are Regulations which may be laid down by the Faculty Board but do not require further approval by the General Board. Such details may include an outline of the broad areas covered by the course, or further details of examination requirements.

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Discontinuing or suspending a paper or course

The following points should be addressed before a Faculty Board requests the suspension of a paper:

  • is the paper compulsory?
  • if the paper is optional, how many other options are there?
  • is the subject matter taught in any other paper?
  • how many other papers are currently suspended?
  • is the paper borrowed by other Tripos(es)?
  • what consideration has been given to finding others to teach the course?
  • have students been consulted or given the opportunity to comment?
  • would students reasonably have been expected to have started preparation for the paper?
  • will the students have made choices in an earlier part of the Tripos in the expectation of taking the paper?

Faculties and departments may have legitimate reasons for the permanent or temporary suspension or withdrawal of Tripos papers. Such requests might be occasioned by staff taking leave or retiring so that teaching cannot be provided. It is understandable that such requests to suspend or withdraw a paper might reasonably be made at short Notice.

In considering requests for the suspension of a paper, the Education Committee's main concern will be that no students will be disadvantaged, and that no student has already been assured of teaching provision which is then removed or inadequately resourced.

In no case should discontinuation or suspension be proposed when students have already started preparing for the examination. If it is absolutely necessary to withdraw or revise a programme that has already attracted applicants, this should be communicated to them via the Cambridge Admissions Office.

Educational and Student Policy Officers will normally approve straightforward suspensions on behalf of the Education Committee. More problematic cases will be referred to the Committee.

Faculties and departments may wish to consider whether a less specific designation of paper titles in Regulations might provide more flexibility in planning their teaching programmes.

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