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Exam results not restricted by Data Protection Act

Michael Crick | 16:24 UK time, Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Great news. You may recall that last summer I complained that Oxford University had refused to tell what classes of degree each of the Miliband brothers has.

They couldn't tell me for "data protection reasons", the press officer said when I phoned him.

However, a reader, David Mason has been in contact with the Information Commissioner's office, the body which looks after the Data Protection Act. And they have told him that degree results are not covered by the DPA. Nor, it seems, are GCSEs and A-levels.

Tim Clarke of the commissioner's office has told Mr Mason:

"The publication of degree classes (and examination results in general) is a common and accepted practice and accordingly the DPA98 (Data Protection Act 1998) would not prevent this.

"However, the DPA98 still means that data controllers have to ensure processing is fair, and should consider carefully requests from students that their personal data is not published."

So a small victory for freedom of information.

Whether that makes Oxford University and other academic institutions behave any more sensibly is another matter.

We can only hope.


  • Comment number 1.

    Credit where due.

    If finding out, yet again, that 'official munchkins' are either inept or will lie through their teeth is depressingly par for the course.

    One presumes this person will not be subject to any consequences?

    That all said, I rather fear my reassurance that anything of importance would be left in the hands of a PPE grad, at any level, is not high.

    But when the hoo-haa du jour seems to be 'certain' folk swinging 'certain' gigs based more on who they and theirs 'know' than actual achievements, the relative stature of same does become relevant.

  • Comment number 2.

    do they also have a register for Bullingdon boys who stole from the Tucke Shoppe and did not recognise Mater and Pater on school sports day.....

  • Comment number 3.

    "HOO-HAA DU JOUR" (#1)

    While England still lays claim to such coinage Junkk, the ignorant hoards of foreigndom will never claim this land.

    Sing lad - SING!

  • Comment number 4.


    Oh stevie - did you catch 'All in the Mind' this week. There is little doubt that the trauma, to little minds, consequent to being sent to the Public Gulag, creates (or exacerbates) the monster-minds who claw their way to the top of Westminster governance. I don't know if Dickens sketched in Flashman's early life, but I am in no doubt he was not a happy little bunny in those tender years.

    We have the knowledge - but not the wisdom to apply it. No one of real stature can breathe in Westminster's miasma.

  • Comment number 5.

    Frankly I am a bit surprised you have had any problem with this.

    When degree results are published in Oxford they are posted in full outside the exam schools. The individual colleges will also publish them in the college register for that particular year- for example if you go to the Exeter College Register for 2003 you will find my results.

    In the case of Corpus Christi, the Milibands' college, the college register is called the "Pelican Record" (or something like that- it definitely has "Pelican", the college symbol, in it). It is a public document so simply go the Bodleian library, or indeed the British Library, and order it up from the stack for the relevant years.

    The explanation for their refusal to tell you maybe for a number of reasons but charitably it is worth pointing out that in recent years it has been possible to opt out in advance of the results' publication from having them posted outside exam schools. The official may not have wanted to give out the results because he would be unable to find out whether the Milibands' had specifically requested that their results should not be published in this way, but this only applies to recent results (since the DPA 1998) so their own results would have been published whether they liked it or not.

    It is also possible that the official simply did not see why he should do your work for you when it is actually relatively easy to obtain the results with a little research as described above!

  • Comment number 6.

    is the bbc any better? they are still employing marr who must now be as useful in questioning as wet matches?

  • Comment number 7.

    PPE is one of those courses where the title of the degree matters less than the options taken, and the class of the degree should be judged in this light too.

    Certain options are rather more difficult and rigorous than others!

    For some, PPE seems to be an initiation into the priesthood of our ruling class. I strongly advised the daughter of a friend NOT to apply for it once, saying that it was the kind of degree taken by those who wanted to boss others about without acquiring any useful skills. My friend just laughed and said something like "that's my girl!"

    In the sixties and seventies some very heavyweight politicians were PPE graduates, Heath and Healey to name two. But these gentlemen also had creditable war records, and had experience of life's more unpleasant realities.

    Most of the modern lot have never got their hands dirty in any real job.

  • Comment number 8.

    # 3 barriesingleton!

    Steady on old bean! 'Foreigndom'? Are MARZIPAN scotties safe from your weasely intent?

    # 1. 'inept or will lie'

    The nature of the beast: honesty and politics = uncomfortable bedfellows.

    The only hope is for ethics to rear it's head above the parapet.

    My solution would be therapeutic poetry readings in the House as part of a holistic healing 'transparent initiative' to help mend the aberrant psyche within ...

  • Comment number 9.


    The Minster Monster psyche is a hell of a huge beastie Januaria. Better to work some marzipan magic on the structure of the Palace of Westminster, and let it slowly slump, entombing the whole dastardly crew.

    Ye ken?

  • Comment number 10.


    The Slut wrangle ran its course, without one mention of alcohol or 'releasers of sexual behaviour'. Do the BBC not use researchers any more?

    I could write a little piece, but opinionated women know far more about men than I ever will (heard Bea Campbell today). I know my place.

  • Comment number 11.

    Can I suggest that you try the following:
    1. Establish the Millibands' ages (and hence dates at which the brothers took their degrees).
    2. Go to decent Library (I understand there are several in London).
    3. Call up back copies of 'The Times' or any other broadsheet for the Summer of that year.
    4. Look for results of relevant exams.
    5. Make note of same.

    It would require some effort and resource (perhaps half a day of a reasonably competent researcher's time) and of course it won't lead to any information that comes remotely close to providing an interesting story; nor will it place any burden on the overstretched Freedom of Information industry (which we all pay for) or Oxford University staff.

    It will be easier, too, than finding out how much of the licence fee will be trousered by whichever 'performer' from the Beeb's stellar 'talent' roster presents the Eurovision Song Contest at the weekend....

    And it's most unlikely that it will be obstructed by a 'superinjunction' of the kind so popular amongst senior BBC journalists.

  • Comment number 12.

    #10 Glad to hear it. [if it makes you feel better, write the damned piece ....]
    YO! Amazonia-sul-windswept

    Not so long ago a prospective employer could ring up and request confirmation of an applicant's degree in toto. This information was freely given, enabling merit and ability to be unquestioned . All qualifications must be open to scrutiny.

  • Comment number 13.

    Pretty sure its a non-issue - both Miliband's were pretty open about their degrees.

    David got a first - hence him getting a Kennedy Scholarship straight after.
    Ed got a 2.1 - read somewhere he was pretty gutted, went to the lse after then went to Harvard for a year to teach Government and 'get the academia out of his system.'

    Exam results aren't private really. Often GCSEs and A levels are published. If I politician gives a false account then the Universities should be obliged to release a statement highlighting their dishonesty.

  • Comment number 14.

    '10. At 23:45pm 11th May 2011, barriesingleton
    Do the BBC not use researchers any more? "

    One is pretty sure they do... and legions of them.

    Who needs Google*?

    However, experience shows they tend to be quite savvy on what can, and should not be discovered... if they know what's good for them, and us. And in case they do so, there are of course further levels of editorial to ensure proper omission.

    *There is, always, a default that cannot be fought:

  • Comment number 15.


    I have posted before to the effect that Westminster 'politics' comprises: The art of self deception, wrapped in the craft of deceiving others for their own good.

    This is compounded by the fact that they APPROVE and APPLAUD each other's practise of the art and craft. Small wonder ten, that those who get to the top are utterly without principle. What their poor parents and children have to block their minds to, is beyond imagining.

  • Comment number 16.

    #12 ... of course, that was when a degree was worth getting ...

  • Comment number 17.

    DEGREE OF TILT (#16)

    Stop going on about degrees - it's degreeist. All I have is a diploma in windmill-tilting from a little known La Mancha institute.

  • Comment number 18.

    Why is a degree considered relevant, whatever its class. I thought these two were labouring people practising socialism and all are equal in socialism. Or have I missed something?

  • Comment number 19.


    I know the place, barrie. It is a well regarded institution which issues degrees from the University of Life.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    #17 does that matter BS?

    I've only got a sistifikate and grade 3 pinao AND a bit of paper which proves I can type (that IS worth getting)

  • Comment number 22.


    And don't think I missed that use of 'BS'! (:o)

  • Comment number 23.


    Yes,you did miss something stanilic,socialism is only for the little people,not for puffed up labour M.Ps.They talk about it (ad nauseum) preach about it,but dont live
    their lives singing the Red Flag!!!

    Michael,is this blog to go the way of others with the new format? Fight against it! The new (unimproved) format is dire.

  • Comment number 24.

    hang on a mo' so it's nine grand for a degree and they are not worth a you think we should tell our poor, underfunded youth...or will they find out for themselves?

  • Comment number 25.


    Old Chinese saying: Those who do the most good are seldom noticed. New British Truth: those who do the most harm are found in Westminster.

    No abilities other than, deceit and hypocrisy, are required for high political office. Clearly, academia has noticed.

  • Comment number 26.


    We should make them, shouldn't we?

  • Comment number 27.

    @17 Barrie - I always thought your comments were rather Quixotic! ;-D

  • Comment number 28.

    #22 SPELLING AND SPOOLING, bs (demoted again)
    Weston Leisure Dome agogo --- confident that the Nightingale Trop .. bird will morph into THE phoenix.

  • Comment number 29.

    So....what class of degree do they both have then?

  • Comment number 30.

    Miliband D took a first, Miliband E took an upper second and a Masters in Economics at LSE. It's not difficult to find on the web. The source for Miliband D is the BBC itself. (So all you needed to do was search the internal database Michael! ;-D )

  • Comment number 31.

    i dont want to cast aspersions on your journalistic ability's but shouldn't you have checked this out and shouldn't you have put in a request to the information commissioner not one of your readers

    i hope you are not this easily fobbed of when investigating other story's.....

  • Comment number 32.

    If the shoe fits wear it down to the sole.


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