York Uni law students’ letter of protest at EU referendum exam question

Avatar photo

By Katie King on

Over 100 sign an open letter of complaint arguing referendum isn’t on the syllabus


In a detailed letter to the head of York University’s law school, students have expressed their “anger and distress” at their final year EU law paper after they were asked a question about David Cameron’s EU deal and the upcoming ‘in or out’ referendum.

The offending question asked students to critically assess a short statement about the immigration crisis in the EU, evaluating it in the light of:

(i) … ‘the EU deal’ the Prime Minister David Cameron obtained on 19th of February 2016, and (ii) in relation to the forthcoming referendum

Speaking exclusively to Legal Cheek, one irate York final year undergrad described the exam as “a joke”, and commented:

For those who do not know about the upcoming referendum or the subsequent EU deal, it would have been a very difficult paper indeed.

And it seems this is the view shared by the law student body. Outraged students have written an open letter to the law school (a draft of which is pictured below) expressing their “deep and underserved [sic] dissatisfaction” with the paper, which is worth 10% of the total marks for the third year.

In it, they state that the EU deal and referendum — both newsworthy current affairs topics — “do not form part of our syllabus nor do they appear in the Block Guide”.

The letter — which lists a number of other concerns about the exam’s “approach of questions” — has reportedly been signed by 100 students, that’s more than two thirds of the year group.

Professor Caroline Hunter, head of the highly-rated law school, has responded to the letter. She said:

The paper was set in the proper way and scrutinised by an external examiner. If, when scripts are marked, there is a statistically significant departure from the distribution of marks seen in previous years in EU law examinations, we will take care to see whether the marks should be normalised.

But for our anonymous law student, that’s just not good enough:

It’s hugely unfair that the only response law students received was ‘we’ll see what happens when the results come back’. People’s futures and careers depend on the result this year and for someone who studied hard for this exam, I left giving up all hope for the higher grade I’d worked towards this year.

Read the full letter here:

Letter(2) copy