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After 800 years, laptops to replace handwriting in exams at Cambridge University

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-10 08:48


LONDON -- Eight centuries of students submitting hand-written exam papers could soon come to an end at the world famous Cambridge University.

The university is considering axing compulsory written exams and allowing students to use laptop computers instead, reports in Britain's broadsheet newspapers reported Saturday.

The proposed move comes after Cambridge tutors complained that students' handwriting is becoming illegible.

Academics say today's students rely too heavily on laptops in lectures, and are losing the ability to write by hand.

Cambridge University, according to the reports, has launched a consultation on the topic as part of a digital education strategy.

Earlier this year Cambridge piloted an exam typing scheme in its history and classics faculties.

In an online survey, students are asked whether they would like the option to type exams, and whether this would have a "significant positive impact" on their "well-being".

Dr Sarah Pearsall, a senior lecturer at Cambridge's History Faculty who was involved with the pilot earlier this year, told the Daily Telegraph that handwriting is becoming a lost art among the current generation of students.

She said: "Fifteen or twenty years ago students routinely have written by hand several hours a day - but now they write virtually nothing by hand except exams," she told The Daily Telegraph.

"As a faculty we have been concerned for years about the declining handwriting problem. There has definitely been a downward trend. It is difficult for both the students and the examiners as it is harder and harder to read these scripts."

Pearsall added an increasing number of scripts are having to be transcribed centrally, meaning that students with illegible writing are forced to come back to their college during the summer holidays to read their answers aloud in the presence of two university administrators.

One leading academic who sees the decline in handwriting continuing, Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, told the Telegraph it is inevitable that universities will move to computers as handwriting deteriorates in coming years.

"Handwriting is very significantly in decline. We have to accept the reality."

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said their review of exam procedures was prompted by students raising concerns that they rarely handwrite during their studies.

"The consultation is on-going and will be used to inform future decision-making on the issue," the spokesperson added.

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