Oxford University exam times were increased in a bid to improve the low scores of women, it has emerged.
Students taking maths and computer science examinations in the summer of 2017 were given an extra 15 minutes to complete their papers, after dons ruled that “female candidates might be more likely to be adversely affected by time pressure”. There was no change to the length or difficulty of the questions.
It was the first time such steps had been taken. In previous years, the percentage of male students awarded first class degrees was double that of women and in 2016 the board of examiners suggested that the department make changes to improve women’s grades.
However, despite the intention being to lessen gender discrepancies, the main effect of the time increase appears to have been an increase in the number of 2:1s overall, with 2:2 figures falling. Men continued to be awarded more first class degrees than women in the two subjects.
A university spokesman defended the changes as “academically demanding and fair”, and noted that while 39 per cent of female mathematicians achieved first class degrees compared to 47 per cent of men, women’s scores had improved year on year.
The lengthening of exams was welcomed by some female students. Antonia Siu, Undergraduate Representative of Oxford Women in Computer Science, said: “I am uneasy about schemes to favour one gender over another.
“But I am happy when people see gaps between groups of people who should not reasonably have such gaps – such as between genders, races or class – and take that as a starting point to think about the kinds of people they unintentionally are leaving behind.”
Original reporting by The Telegraph.