Twenty exams have been confirmed to take place in person this year, with a further 15 papers set to be confirmed dependent on the government’s announcement on in-person course returns before next term. The majority of the exams already confirmed to be in-person are exams set by the Chemistry faculty, including Prelims and FHS exams, and the majority of exams set to be confirmed are ancient languages exams, held by the Classics faculty.The Chemistry faculty outlined justification for in-person exams to their students in correspondence, citing “the rigour of the examination process,” greater ease of revision due to relevance of past papers available online, and “widespread collusion and cheating” at other Universities that chose to assess Chemistry remotely. The faculty went on to say that “the Teaching Committee decided unanimously that this was our first preference for exams next term, and the decision was ratified by the academics in all sections.”Students taking in-person exams this year will not be expected to wear sub fusc, and those that choose to wear sub fusc have been asked to leave their caps at home. Face coverings will need to be worn throughout exams and in the examination buildings, except for those that have a legal exemption. For those that are self-isolating or unable to return to Oxford for Trinity due to travel restrictions, there is the possibility of sitting the exam online at the same time as the in-person exam, with remote invigilation. Sacha Chowdhury, a first-year Chemistry student, told Cherwell: “I would have preferred to do online exams for a few reasons: firstly, there’s just less health risk than in person exams. Also, since a lot of this year has been online including both sets of collections, we haven’t really had any practice with in person exams at uni. […] Another worry would be that if there were to be a spike in the weeks preceding the exams since, by committing to in-person exams, it makes it difficult to make a U-turn if necessary, so it relies on the government’s plan being successful.” “A benefit of in-person exams is that I think I perform better as seeing other people working around me and being in an exam school may give me more adrenaline and focus, which is something I struggled with in online collections.”A spokesperson for the University of Oxford told Cherwell: “In line with government guidance, the University will continue to offer a mix of in-person and online teaching and assessment while the national restrictions are in place. The vast majority of in-person exams taking place during Trinity Term will take place online using Inspera. The platform offers a greatly improved online exam experience for students with an intuitive interface and a range of tools that meet Oxford’s diverse needs.”“Around thirty in-person examinations are scheduled [to] take place in Trinity Term, pending government confirmation around Easter of further courses which are able to return to in-person teaching and assessment. These exams are planned to take place in person in line with professional body accreditation requirements, or because it is not possible to examine their content remotely. Trinity Term in-person exams will be held with a range of safety measures implemented, including reduced capacity in exam halls, the compulsory use of face coverings and limited contact between individuals.” “Students unable to sit their exams in-person, because they are having to self-isolate or they have dispensation to be resident outside Oxford, will be able to apply, via their college, to sit an online exam with remote invigilation – which is outside of Inspera, not a part of it.”“The University’s guidance and provisions to facilitate safe teaching follow Government advice. They have been carefully prepared in consultation with staff, Public Health England and other local partners.”Image Credit: Paul Chapman / Oxford University – Matriculation / CC BY-SA 2.0
The U.S government is currently running an unprecedented $1.3 trillion budget deficit (that’s $1,300 billion). Regardless of the recent pronouncement from the deficit commission, there is no plan to do much in the way of addressing the deficit. President Barack Obama’s budget projections show the current level of spending continuing as far as the eye can see. The Republicans, who are about to control the House, have no interest in raising taxes. Republicans continue to claim that the problem is out-of-control spending (thanks to both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama). They are calling for cancellation of the remaining stimulus spending and further cuts in federal spending. Democrats blame the deficit on President Bush’s tax cuts. They want to increase income taxes at least on the high-income earners, if not on everybody. Both could be rightIt is possible that they are both correct. Perhaps a little historical context can help us see what has truly transpired. In January 2001, we were at the end of the Clinton presidency. The budget had a $160 billion surplus, and the government had been split for six years between a Republican Congress and a Democratic president. We will soon have a similar split government. But can we expect to see a surplus any time soon? Not unless government makes big changes in the current budget. So what has changed since Clinton’s term ended?To examine this, I compared the current federal spending and tax receipts to those at the start of 2001. The latest figure for U.S. government spending is $3.75 trillion for third quarter 2010. At the start of 2001, federal spending was $1.94 trillion. To be fair, we need to adjust the 2001 spending to account for inflation since then, which has amounted to about 23 percent, and for population growth, which has been 9.5 percent. So to spend the equivalent amount per person today would take $2.63 trillion. That means we are currently spending $1.12 trillion more per year than what we were spending at the end of the Clinton administration, even after adjusting for population growth and inflation.On the revenue side, the latest 2010 number is $2.42 trillion. The 2001 number was $2.10 trillion. When I adjust the 2001 revenue for inflation and population growth, the equivalent revenue today would be $2.84 trillion. Thus, revenue is $420 billion lower today than it was in 2001 once we make the adjustments for inflation and population.Spending outpaced revenuesSo in comparing the changes to revenues and expenditures, we find that federal government revenues have dropped by 15 percent since 2001 on a constant dollar, per capita basis (with half of the drop due to the just-ended recession and half having occurred before the recession). Meanwhile, federal spending has increased by an astonishing 43 percent over the same period, again after the adjustments for inflation and population growth. These numbers suggest that the deficit has been caused much more by out-of-control spending than by a shortage of tax revenues.So for a start, Congress should reduce spending to an amount equivalent to the end of President Clinton’s term adjusted for inflation and population growth. That would shrink the current federal deficit to a fairly manageable $230 billion. Anyone protesting (and there would be many in both parties) would have to explain how President Clinton and the Republican Congress had been stingy or misguided back in 2001 when they managed on that level of spending. The tax receipt data from 2007 suggests that as we continue to recover from the recession, tax revenues should rise by about $200 billion without needing to raise any tax rates. That would give us a balanced budget.Returning government spending to the equivalent of 2001 levels would be difficult politically. Both bureaucrats and politicians will scream to protect their favorite programs. But it would balance the budget. And, by my memory, government did plenty back in 2001. I say, let’s return to the Clinton administration.