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Faculty reacts to arbitrary exam claims

Svetlana Mikkelsen’s case shows lecturers are ill-equipped to handle language problems, according to the associate dean of the Faculty of Humanities

The Humanities Faculty would like to attract more students with international backgrounds. Certain lecturers, however, are unable to properly guide and evaluate students who cannot speak flawless Danish, and struggle to express themselves in English.

Those are the conclusions of associate dean Jens Erik Mogensen, after he was familiarized with the case of Svetlana Mikkelsen — a Russian student, who claimed written exams in Danish are often evaluated arbitrarily.

Svetlana has felt it necessary to hire proofreaders, or write her exams in English, which the associate dean finds unacceptable.

Case-by-case basis

»It’s an unacceptable solution, and implies that lecturers are not properly equipped to tackle this problem«, Jens Erik Mogensen stated to Uniavisen.

He added, that judicially speaking an institution should not encourage students to have their work proofread, as any examination or assignment is implicitly assumed to be the student’s own and independent labor.

According to the associate dean, university guidelines allow for a similar treatment of students who do not speak Danish as a primary language, and students with dyslexia. Doing so, however, must be done on a case-by-case basis, and be approved by the academic study board, he adds.

Central to whole university

He is aware that this is already done within the faculty, though it lacks oversight and is done on an ad-hoc basis; therefore a common policy for the humanities must be instituted so that students are aware of what the procedure is.

The treatment that students receive shouldn’t be a matter of who their teacher is, Jens Erik Mogensen points out.

He adds that this isn’t simply a question concerning the Faculty of Humanities, and it can thus be brought up centrally to the University of Copenhagen.

Solve language problems

Mogensen does not expect it to be an easy task to formulate a common language policy of the faculty or the university as a whole.

»We must look at the learning objectives for each individual subject, and acknowledge their differences. If students simply need to use Danish to express themselves, the requirements can likely be relaxed. Conversely, if they are to teach Danish to high-school students, they might wish to reconsider their educational profile, if they are unable to express themselves in immaculate Danish«, says the associate dean.

Jens Erik Mogensen also expects that the new pedagogic-didactic center, which is currently being set up in the humanities faculty, may develop the educational tools that academic study boards and educators can use to solve language problems.

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