Resits after exam papers stolen

University of Otago dentistry students were forced to resit their last exam without being told why, after 98 unmarked scripts were stolen from the Clocktower Building.

They were also asked not to tell their classmates about the resit, a final-year dentistry student said.

The student, who resat the exam yesterday, and asked not to be named, said he and nine of his classmates speculated before completing it a second time that it was due to exam papers being stolen from a storage room on Saturday.

''We were told ... they couldn't mark it for some reason, so we had to resit.'' 

Ninety-eight unmarked student examination scripts were stolen in the burglary, most of them having been completed on Saturday.

The Otago Daily Times understands the university suspected a student of cheating in a microbiology exam on the morning of the burglary.

The dentistry student said university staff did not tell them the papers had been taken and said they ''just had to do it''.

''I was ... annoyed because I was pretty happy that I was done [finished examinations].''

The dentistry class celebrated after the initial exam with a function at Larnach Castle on Saturday evening.

The anonymous student said he had probably done better the second time and he felt his classmates thought the same thing.

''They couldn't change the exam so we just sat the same one.''

He said the university had ''rushed us through'' the exam again because all the papers needed to be marked before graduation.

University staff asked students sitting the exam again not to tell their classmates so other students would not speculate.

''They couldn't give us a grade without resitting the exam,'' the student said.

An Otago University Students' Association spokeswoman confirmed a dental exam had already been resat.

She said 10 different exams had been stolen and ''different options [were] being offered to students affected''.

She could not confirm that the university had offered a resit, an internal grade, a rewrite at home or an ungraded pass to affected students.

University of Otago head of communications Megan McPherson said examination scripts in a range of subjects, mainly completed on Saturday, were affected, including several second year papers, English 240, politics 204, microbiology 223, dentistry 551, a sports medicine paper and a health promotion paper.

Ms McPherson said some students who had already left the university and travelled elsewhere could find it difficult to resit exams.

They could be sat at other centres and the university was also taking individual circumstances into account in discussing matters with students, she said.

It is understood the offender appeared to have knowledge of the registry building layout and some planning had been involved.

Yesterday, university academic deputy vice-chancellor Prof Vernon Squire said staff contacted the students affected and his immediate concern was for them.

''We understand how upsetting and disappointing this is for the students.

''The considerable effort they have put into their study and exams has essentially been ruined by this reprehensible criminal act.

''We are making arrangements with the students to prepare for a likelihood that their scripts will not be returned.''

The university was urging anyone to come forward if they had any information about the theft.

A Southern district police spokesman said a detective was investigating the burglary and was following lines of inquiry.

He would not comment on whether police had identified any suspects.

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