It seems that everyone knows someone who has worked in the food industry who delights in telling hygiene horror stories, followed by the dire warning: don’t eat such-and-such a brand’s burgers or biscuits. At least some of these tales appear to be more than urban myths and result in prosecutions, and public hygiene inspectors have become the stars of the small screen. So why don’t we seem to hear about the many horrendous human errors that must occur in our own higher education sector?

Here are four examples that I have witnessed in three different respected British higher education establishments.

The first must occur frequently. A member of staff loses a set of exam papers. No one owns up and, to cover for the error, average marks are returned based on students’ performance in other exams.

Second, and more extreme, a student fails their dissertation and is given a year to resubmit before they can graduate. Despite adding extra material over the year, the student is awarded a lower mark. When they appeal, their original mark is recalculated and it turns out that the student did in fact pass at the first attempt a year earlier. Does the university own up? Why of course not, it simply raises the mark of the second submission and the student graduates, oblivious to the fact that they have wasted an entire year

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