Some Oxford University students think trees are dangerous, translate German into something akin to the incomprehensible babble of “the Swedish chef from the Muppets” and spout “bloke down the pub waffle”, according to their tutors.
Reports about the students’ performances in exams between 2010 and 2014 contain withering criticism of people who are supposed to be future members of Britain’s elite, The Daily Telegraph reported.
One Oxford student suggested the tutors enjoyed the chance to show off their sense of humour.
One tutor’s report said: “Sections of some of the worst scripts did not read like post-A-level German at all, but more like a transcript of the Swedish chef from the Muppets.
“I reckon this was a fair test, but what it revealed was depressing. My sense is that there has been a significant decline since I last marked the exercise.”
Law students in another exam displayed an alarming lack of “basic common sense”, given their prospective careers.
“The examiners were repeatedly informed that rainfall is an extraordinary/non-natural/dangerous use of land by the owner, as are trees, silt and drainage ditches, and that grazing cattle on pastures is an hypersensitive (and non-natural) use of farmland,” read the report.
Sociology tutor Professor Colin Mills despaired of “far too much ‘bloke down the pub’ waffle” written in the exam papers.
“It is indeed troublesome to read scripts that might as well have been written by someone walking into Schools [the examination hall] off the street without even the slightest acquaintance with lectures and tutorials,” he wrote in one report.
Speaking to the Telegraph, he added: “I am the kind of bloke who says what he thinks. The report was about a very small class of no more than 10 students, as far as I can recall, and it is true that the performance overall was poor.
“However, it is also true that I have had classes over the years who have been extremely good.”
A psychology professor also spoke of “a disconcerting number of candidates [who] seemed to find it difficult to express their thoughts in writing”.
Alice King, 20, who is studying German, suggested the tutors might be showing off a little.
“I’m well aware of just how scathing they can be,” she said.
“However, the examiner’s report provides our tutors with an all-too-rare chance to prove that they are indeed in possession of a sense of humour, albeit as part of a package deal with encyclopaedic knowledge and ruthless expectations.”
An Oxford University spokesman said: “A minority of colourful comments by examiners makes interesting reading, but they reflect neither the opinion of most Oxford examiners nor the overall academic competence of Oxford undergraduates.”