Oriental Studies students are currently protesting against inequalities in their Final Exam Arrangements for 2021-2022. While students for all other Oriental languages will be given a combination of in-person and online exams this year, those reading Japanese Studies are set to be assessed in-person only.
This comes after the Faculty of Oriental Studies’ announcement on Monday 18th October: students of Japanese Studies are now facing a full series of closed-book exams, while those on the similarly structured courses for Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and Egyptology will have around a third of their assessments in an online, open-book format.
Students are understandably concerned that candidates reading for the same overall degree should be subject to such different arrangements.
The Faculty of Oriental Studies has stressed that Final Exam Arrangements for 2022 are not designed to mitigate the fragmented teaching of the past two years: despite the hardships of the pandemic, decisions on forms of assessment this year are simply “a question of what we want to examine and how we want to examine that.”
However, Japanese Studies students are not asking for special treatment, only equal treatment, and they find it hard to understand why tutors only want to examine them in-person when the mirror-image course for Chinese has been able to approve a mixed exam format.
On Wednesday, students took the matter to the Head of Faculty, who expressed sympathy but said that his hands were tied by the will of individual departments.
In a final attempt to be granted their preferred form of assessment, Japanese Studies Finalists wrote an open letter to their tutors, with the additional signatures of other Oriental Studies students who disagree with the unequal examination of their sister-subject.
Having received an uncompromising and formulaic response on Friday, Finalists have been left with a sense of anxiety and injustice. It’s plainly unfair that some students have access to open-book exams while others do not, and failure to standardise arrangements within the faculty only prolongs the academic disruption that Oxford University is attempting to leave behind.
As a small department, Oriental Studies is often overlooked, but there is no doubt that tutors should be working to ensure the best outcomes for all Finalists: Japanese Studies students believe that this involves giving them equal opportunities to their peers on comparable degree courses.
Those affected say that the lack of resolution has left them in limbo, impacting their ability to revise and plan study. They hope that the Faculty will amend exam arrangements for Japanese Studies very shortly and release new details as soon as possible.