Early in December, my first semester came to an end. I had three weeks to complete my written assignments and another three weeks to wait for their results.
The grading process here in the UK is a bit odd. Upon submitting my "essays", I had to provide two separate hard copies for review and grading. I was further required to upload each essay to the university's "elearning" database called: Moodle. This was so that essays can be run through a plagiarism detection computer program in the case that plagiarism is suspected by the markers.
Temporary Rant: Remember everyone, that you and only YOU can Prevent plagiarism. Plagiarism is BAD. It's like terrorism, butter on a sunburn, or taking off your space helmet on the moon. Is that clear! Apparently people don't get this! And now I have to put up with all of the !$&*?!.....I mean, appropriate bureaucratic procedures that will guard against the 8th deadly sin of plagiarism. It's a very serious matter that I wish less serious students would try harder to avoid. Thank you for your consideration.
Now the grading is not simply conducted by the course "convenor" or instructor. Rather, each essay is read by the instructor and an additional faculty member. This is to guard against the possibility of an instructor's inflationary bias. It also helps to moderate grading. For instance, some instructors might feel that marks should be determined with emphasis on originality of argument and evidence of literature review. Others may weight the written analysis more heavily. Either way, as long as there isn't any great discrepancy between the two separate marks (say, within 5 points or so), then the primary marker can negotiate/determine the final mark. Mark results are then sent along to the student as "provisional grades". At this moment, I have my "provisional grades"and they are right where they need to be in order for me to continue confidently towards the PhD. Phew!
What happens next? Well, on Wednesday, Feb. 10th (Oh excuse me. I mean, 10 Feb) my department will sponsor a panel of academics/experts from other universities, who will read through a host of written samples extracted from the students' essays. These readers will then have an opportunity to weigh in on the grades provided by the primary and secondary markers. As long as all goes well, I can rely on my now "provisional grades" to be documented on my student record/transcript. This process of "external review" is essentially conducted to protect university standards and to protect against institutional biases. But of course, it's really all a bunch of bureaucratic puckey because all of the professors know that an essay submitted at Oxford or Cambridge will not be assessed on the same standard with those submitted at lesser ranking institutions. I am happy to report though, that overall, Bath currently ranks 8th out of 117 universities throughout the UK. Again: Phew!
This week, I return to school to begin the spring semester and complete several unit courses entitled: Ethics in Research and Social Science, Dying and Mourning in Social Sciences and the Arts, and Dissertation Planning. Such courses should set me on my way to becoming more familiar with other faculty and should sure up my base for completing my first piece of substantial (an hopefully, original) research (i.e. my dissertation).