Since their last exam on October 16, it took until this Monday for Physics and Philosophy (commonly abbreviated to PhysPhil) students to receive results. The cohort, now in their fourth and final year, have had to apply to jobs and graduate studies with only second-year results.

In June of 2020, PhysPhil students sat the philosophy component of their exams. There is only one paper unique to the PhysPhil degree; all others that PhysPhil students may have taken were offered to philosophy students across degrees. Finalists for degrees such as PPE received their exam results in July, but PhysPhil students received no results – even for papers they had in common with other courses.

The physics exams were held in 0th and 1st week of Michaelmas 2020, ending on October 16. Physics students received their results two weeks ago, but results were again withheld from PhysPhil students.

On November 25, the Department of Physics told PhysPhil students: “The examiners acutely understand that students (and their tutors) require the examination results to be published – the examiners are doing all they can to make this happen as soon as possible. The results will be published when they are published.”

On December 4, another email to students stated: “There is no past experience for Michaelmas Term Physics examinations, rather this is in addition to a normal busy Michaelmas Term. It is therefore regrettable that we are unable to provide a definitive date for the publication of examination results, even a worst-case date. All colleagues involved in the examining process are doing all they can to make this happen as soon as they can.”

On January 15, after being asked for a date for the examiner’s meeting or an idea of when results would be given, the brief response was: “There are no updates”.

Then, on January 25, results were released, with no accompanying explanation for the delay.

A PhysPhil student told Cherwell: “The situation is ridiculous: even accounting for the pandemic, the reason it took over two weeks longer than the physicists to get results is because of exams we did six months ago. The complete lack of communication from a PhysPhil authority, with no acknowledgement, apology or explanation for the delay and no message whatsoever on when we could expect results, strongly suggests that students’ interests weren’t a priority. The inability to contact examiners directly without serious consequences made it impossible to hold them accountable to any sort of reasonable deadline. This not only disadvantaged us when applying for further study or jobs, but also adversely affected students’ mental health in an already difficult time.”

One student is planning on filing a complaint with the departments.

The Physics Faculty told Cherwell “Results for the MPhysPhil degree have been published.

While there is overlap in content as regards physics, to release results for a joint school involves additional steps. This is more apparent when operating within the current environment and the restrictions that that brings with it.

Regarding Ph.D applications, tutor references play a very important part and tutors are usually in a very good position to give assessments of a candidate’s ability and performance. Students concerned on this front are advised to speak to their college tutors.

We are sorry to hear that some students feel that their interests are not a priority and we would like to give assurance that this is absolutely not the case. Staff are working very hard, having to balance workload with additional strain imposed by Covid-related matters (childcare, home schooling, working remotely). The PJCC [Physics Joint Consultative  Committee, consisting of both Physics and a Physics & Philosophy student representatives] has a good understanding of the situation and students may, as always, use that channel to obtain advice or gain reassurance about their degree course. Students who feel that their mental health has been affected are advised, again, to speak with their college tutor, or otherwise to make contact with the welfare networks in college.”

The University has been contacted for comment.

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