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7:04pm on Friday, 3rd July, 2009:

Adieu, Portsmouth


Today I went to Portsmouth University to be an external examiner for the last time. They have a 5-year limit on externals, and this was my fifth year. Today's Award Board meeting, which I attended as Chief External Examiner, was my final duty.

There are some things about Portsmouth's way of doing things that are a little bizarre from an Essex University point of view. For example, they calculate what each student's final grade is three different ways (average, 60/40 third/second-year split, preponderance of grades) and use whichever they get the highest in; this seems rather generous. However, to get an honours degree, the students must not fail any modules; this seems rather harsh. However, if a student only fails one module worth 20 credits or less but made a reasonable attempt at it, then the exam board can let them through (which we did in almost every case); this seems rather lenient again. The result of all this is that out of the several hundred students who graduated, only a handful got third class degrees — it's really hard to score between 40% and 50% on all three methods without failing a module.

Needless to say, now that the Computer Games degree has been running for 5 years and is a well-oiled machine, Portsmouth University as a whole is reorganising how it does its teaching (dropping the semester format) and they'll have to reconstruct all their courses. Luckily for me, I won't be there to see what's still standing when the smoke clears.

Five years is a long time to be visiting a place two or three times a year. When I started, this building was only just rising from its foundations:

I like the fact that Portsmouth has got round any accusations that tall buildings are essentially phallic structures by making this one look like a lipstick.

The big surprise for me was that at the end of the examiners' meeting, I got a going-away present! This is it:

It's a map of Portsmouth dating from the mid-1800s. I found it immediately interesting because although Southsea seems to loom large in Portsmouth's geography, it doesn't get a mention on the map — Portsea does, but there's no Southsea. It's signed on the back by all the academics whose courses I have been criticising for the past 5 years, too.

I'm very pleased with it! Someone must have been reading my blog to find out what I liked, and it paid off.

I shall recommend to my success that he or she cultivate the impression of being a collector of Rolls Royces.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).