UCD’s new draft academic regulations unwittingly provide some interesting insights into the complexity of its administration.

The draft regulations re-state the use of grade capping when a student fails a module. The proposals run into an administrative issue, which is connected to the current ‘loophole’ in the system. A student who fails an option module, then substitutes it for a different one, does not receive a capped grade in the new module, even though it technically counts as a remediation attempt. In contrast, a normal repeat or resit attracts a capped D- grade, irrespective of the actual result in the repeat assessment.

The Academic Council believes capping a substituted module’s grade at a D- is ‘a good change’ as it ‘makes the system fair for all.’ However, this may create another set of problems. The new issue, as noted by the Council, is that it can be ‘difficult to differentiate systematically between substitutes and extra option credit in programmes with complex structures.’

Let us say you are substituting in another option module for a failed one, while also picking several other option modules for your course as part of the registration process. How can UCD tell which one is your substituted module that must be capped? They can’t.

The Council suggested two ways to rectify the issue. The first is to force all student support staff to manually register students for substitute attempts by altering their registration status. This ‘carries a significant administrative burden’ and a ‘significant scope for error.’ There is also the issue of trying to stop students from taking extra electives.

Option two is to develop a system to handle the problem. However, this requires significant ‘scoping, development, substantial testing, documentation and training.’ Even if that works out, ‘it remains unclear if this is possible to implement systematically.’

In reality, this means placing an extra burden on staff, or spending more money to try develop a system to automatically handle it, which it recognises as requiring ‘very significant’ resources and being potentially unworkable. The joys of administration.