In the provocation below, Ansgar Allen argues that projects which aim to reform or ‘democratise’ assessment practices often conceal, or risk concealing, the fact that the university is manifestly not a democratic institution. The project faces definite constraints: any lecturers involved will, most likely, remain employees answerable to the University and its mechanisms of so-called quality assurance. At the same time, students involved will most likely remain students of the University, with all that involves, including the burden of fees and their relationship to the University as paying customers. In other words, democratically-inclined attempts to reform assessment make claims and adhere to high principles which simply cannot be realised without radically overhauling the basic conditions and surrounding context of that practice itself.
Ansgar works in the history and philosophy of education, and has written two books: Benign Violence and The Cynical Educator.