‘It’s a joke’: Student given ‘vague’ 100-word feedback for 8,000 word dissertation

‘This is an insult to me and my supervisor’

A Glasgow student has hit out at Strathclyde University after she received just five sentences of feedback for her 8,000 word dissertation.

The work wasn’t marked by her supervisor – who is currently taking part in the marking and assessment boycott – and was instead marked by somebody who at no stage had been involved in her dissertation process.

Rebecca May, a final year English and French student, called the 111-word feedback an “insult to her and her supervisor”, telling The Glasgow Tab it was a “joke”.

The recent graduate explained how her feedback was completely contradictory to what she had been told to do by her supervisor.

Rebecca said her supervisor had specifically told her not to change the title of her English dissertation, “Reader, show she have married him? Breaking down the problematic behaviours of men in 19th century literature, their redemption arcs, and their reconciled relationships: are their marriages due to story or character development?”.

However her feedback, which wasn’t double-marked and instead was only checked by one marker called her title “unwieldy”.

Rebecca said she had been working on her dissertation since May 2022 wracking up hundreds of hours on it, adding: “there was a couple weeks where that’s all I did”. In turn, Rebecca guessed that the marker had likely spent “less than half an hour” marking her work.

She was given 58 for the 8,000 word essay which is a 2:2. To add further insult to injury, her dissertation title alone is a third of the length of her pitiful 111-word feedback.

— Bex (@i_decked_it) June 29, 2023

Rebecca received a grade for her dissertation two weeks ago, however, this mark had not changed from her proposal which she and her supervisor “essentially both hated”. Rebecca said that the two had “reworked” the “entire” proposal. She said: “I just assume they’ve just shoved in my proposal mark so it looks like I have a mark.”

Rebecca will stay on at the University of Strathclyde for a Master’s, however, this was not always guaranteed due to her provisional award. Rebecca explained that the university assured students that these provisional awards would qualify them for postgraduate courses and jobs. However, the university later retracted this saying they would look into accepting her onto her Master’s programme but could not confirm it.

At her graduation last Wednesday, Rebecca staged a protest against Strathclyde University giving out provisional awards. On her ceremony programme, Rebecca discovered over half of the graduands were not receiving official degrees, calling this the “final straw”. She had joked with one of her classmates that she was going to walk past the principal and not get capped, with her classmate responding that they might think that she didn’t know to stop. Rebecca, therefore, decided to have the sash around her waist and wrap it around her neck as she crossed the stage.

She said: “As I walked off the stage, I had so many members of staff and other students coming up and saying “how did you have the guts to do that” but also genuinely thanking me because the ceremony did not acknowledge what was going on. There was no explanation of why so many of us were graduating with this non-existent degree.”

Rebecca is one of the countless students across the UK who has graduated without a degree classification, and the lack of results is affecting future job prospects.

“I have coursemates doing languages, French and Spanish, who have lost places for international study. And because, obviously, for UK universities across the board it’s the same situation, but universities in France or Spain where they’ve got 20 places and 50 applicants, they’re not going to look at the three applicants who have the provisional award.”

Rebecca said that this experience has “definitely ruined” her graduation. She said: “This should have been one of the biggest days of my life, graduating, marking the end of what for me has been five years of work.

“Instead, it just feels like an absolute betrayal from the university, especially when they’re posting about these ‘fantastic’ graduation ceremonies, and it’s like, I don’t even know what I got. I can’t celebrate something that I don’t have.”