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27 March 2017, 12:59
Final year medical students at one of Britain's oldest universities have been told to resit an exam after bosses uncovered evidence of "collusion'' among a small number of learners.
Around 270 undergraduate students at the University of Glasgow's medical school were given the news on Monday morning.
The university said the clinical examination they sat earlier this year has now been declared "void'' after it emerged a handful of students had shared information about the test using social media.
The students responsible are now facing a disciplinary and fitness to practise process and the fresh exam has been timetabled for early May.
In a statement, a university spokesman said: "The undergraduate medical school at the University of Glasgow has detected evidence of collusion by a small number of final year medical students during their clinical examination.
"The collusion involved sharing of exam information using social media. The responsible students are now subject to disciplinary and fitness to practise procedures, and after consultation with the senate of the University of Glasgow the affected examination has been declared void and a new clinical examination will be set for all final year students.
"This decision has been made in an abundance of caution to ensure that the skills of our students are rigorously and fairly tested before they graduate in medicine.''
The new exam will take place at the start of May, with any resits resulting from that paper to be taken later the same month.
The test involved is known as the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).
It is a practical exam in which students are faced with a number of clinical challenges at different points on a ward.
Professor Matthew Walters, head of the university's school of medicine, dentistry and nursing, said it was ''disappointing'' to have discovered the data breach - an ''unprecedented'' experience for the department.
He said: ''We discovered that there has been a breach of security and that, using social media, a very small number of students were sharing information about this examination.
''In an abundance of caution, and with the interests of the public as our primary concern, we didn't feel we could use that examination as the assessment to ensure that our students are fit and ready to graduate and work on the wards.
''Although we didn't have any evidence that the results of the exam have been compromised, we felt that... the safest course of action was to scrap the exam and put on a whole fresh assessment.''
Prof Walters said the resit move has the support of external examiners and the university senate.
It is not expected to affect the overall timetable, which would see students graduate in summer and begin work on the wards in August.
He said there was a ''shared sense of disappointment'' among students and staff when they were told the news, but also a joint understanding of the importance of having a trusted assessment.
''The class essentially recognise and understand the need for a robust and thorough assessment prior to their graduation and are accepting of the decision to rerun the whole exam,'' he said.
Prof Walters said the resit plan will involve much administrative work to organise fresh venues, examiners, patients and exam material.
He described the threat posed by social media as a ''big deal'' for universities generally.
''All medical universities who run OSCE exams have this potential threat and have to take security very seriously,'' he said.