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ARB exam failure rate exposes De Montfort standards gap

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A 'vast proportion' of this year's De Montfort University architecture graduates have failed the ARB assessment exams they were forced to take after the school lost prescription.

The controversial decision by the ARB earlier this year (AJ 6.3.03) to remove prescription from the school left students without recognised qualifications. The ARB said examination standards were unacceptable and organised its own external exams for the students, paid for by De Montfort.

The AJ understands that as many as half of the students awarded degrees and diplomas by the school failed to make the grade in ARB tests.

At least one student who passed De Montfort's internal exams with a distinction this year received a flat fail from the ARB.

The president of the De Montfort Student Union has attacked both the school and the board over the way they have treated the students' education.

Kat Butler told the AJ that the union's welfare department had been inundated with complaints from 'highly stressed'members.

'Most of the architecture student population are very, very angry, ' she said. 'The students feel that the university has had plenty of opportunities to solve the problems but failed to take advantage of any of them.

'But we think that the ARB is also culpable for this mess. It has not made life easy for the students, with the timing of the tests and the timing of its announcements, ' Butler added.

However, a spokeswoman for the university's vice-chancellor's department denied that any conclusions from the ARB tests can yet be drawn.

'From the evidence we have gathered so far, the relationship between performance in Part 2/Part 3 studies and success or otherwise in ARB assessments is not clear, especially since ARB assessors' feedback is very brief, ' she said.

And De Montfort's head of school, Dennis Radford, insisted that no official statistics were yet available. However, he admitted that, on empirical evidence, 'a significant number have failed'.

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