In the most blatant example of the financial pressure to pass failing students, Professor Richard Wynne, head of Bournemouth University’s design, engineering and computing department, emailed staff telling them to ‘minimise’ the number of failures because of a drop in applications.
He wrote: ‘I would urge all academic staff involved in marking examinations etc to look very carefully at those students gaining marks in the 30s. If the mark is 38/9 [just below the pass mark] then please, where possible, look for the extra 1/2 marks if appropriate and not leave it to the exam board to make this decision.’
Wynne went on to warn staff of the consequences of failing students. ‘I often reduce the problem to one of money. It perhaps brings home the issue at hand when you consider that each student brings an income of approximately £4,500. You can all do the sums as well as me to work out the likely implications for the school.’
The Observer investigation has also revealed that university staff are being put under increasing pressure to pass foreign students studying for masters’ degrees because the income is keeping many universities afloat.