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18. Examinations and Assessment Process

Student sitting exam 

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All personal data produced and processed for the purpose of examinations and assessment will be subject to a student's right of access under the DPA 1998, except where an exemption applies.


18.1 Examination scripts

Examination scripts are expressly exempted from the data subject's right of access.  This means that the University is under no obligation to permit examination candidates to have access to either original scripts or copies of those scripts. Examination means any process for determining the knowledge intelligence skill or ability of a candidate by reference to his performance in any test work or other activity, thus written assessment work and field work are covered. However this exemption is discretionary and the University may still choose to provide a script under a subject access request.


18.2 Examiners' comments

Both internal and external examiners' comments, whether made on the script, or in another form that allows them to be held and applied to the original script (e.g. in a coded table), will be covered by the DPA 1998. A data subject has the right to request that a copy or summary "in intelligible form" is provided within the stipulated timescale. This limit is normally 40 days, but in the case of examinations the Act specifically notes that a request may be made before results are announced. In this case there is a limit of five months from the request or 40 days from the announcement of the result, whichever is the earlier.


18.3 Examination marks

The DPA 1998 provides an exemption in relation to the period in which the University is required to deal with a request for access to examination marks, if that request is made before the results are published. The University must respond within five months of the date of the request or 40 days of the date the results are published, whichever is the earlier.


18.4 Providing feedback

Provision of feedback on both formative and summative assessment is increasingly seen as an important part of the educational process to promote learning and facilitate improvement. In order to provide feedback "in intelligible form" academic areas must ensure that examiners write comments that are readily comprehensible, in the absence of the script, to reduce the likelihood that the University will only be able to meet this requirement by producing the script. 


18.5 Automatic processing

The DPA 1998 provides data subjects with the specific right to be informed of the logic of any purely automated decision that significantly affects them. The University's Faculty and School examination boards review and validate the results of each student, taking into account such variables as personal circumstances and health issues.Exam paper


18.6 Examination Board minutes and related documentation

Minutes of i) the University's Examination Boards that contain discussion about data subjects; and ii) the University's Faculty Extenuating Circumstances Boards which are prepared for the purposes of supplying recommendations for consideration by Examination Boards, will be subject to data subject access where candidates are named, or referred to by identifiers from which students may be identified (e.g. by matriculation number) and an extract of the relevant entry (entries) will be provided.

It should be noted that examination board minutes and related documentation which concerns general discussions, e.g. about moderation standards, will very likely be accessible to individuals under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002, (FOISA) unless an exemption can be claimed.

To comply with the University's obligations under both DPA and FOISA legislation, clerks to the Examination Boards should ensure that the minutes of meetings are prepared so that the recording of discussions about specific students is kept separate from that of general business matters. A FOISA front sheet has been developed for this purpose.


18.7 Disclosure of results

 Since examination results constitute personal data they should not be disclosed to third parties unless one of the relevant criteria in the DPA 1998 is met. The usual criterion is to gain consent to the disclosure e.g. for inclusion of results in the graduation lists published in "The Scotsman" newspaper and in the Graduation Programme. If a student has opted out of publication, staff must not then disclose results to enquirers, unless specifically requested to do so by the data subject in writing, or where there is legitimate reason to do so, such as the prevention of fraud, e.g. where a student misrepresents their results to an employer.  The University's procedure for dealing with false qualification claims is in Section 8.11 of this Code of Practice.


18.8 Withholding results

Results will be withheld in accordance with the University's policy on Tuition Fees (which includes provisions governing other student debt) and the University's obligations under the DPA 1998.