Cambridge University apologises for suggesting students who get a third class degree will feel disappointed

They acknowledged that their wording had “caused some distress” to students
They acknowledged that their wording had “caused some distress” to students

 Cambridge University has become embroiled in a “snowflake” row after it apologised for suggesting students who get a third class degree will feel disappointed.  

The university’s Careers Service sent an email to third year students last week with the subject line “Disappointing results? Our top advice”.  

The message, which was sent to students who were nearing the end of their Finals or had already finished, opened by saying: “So you didn't get the grade you hoped for - 3rd, 2:2, pass or DDH."

It went on: “You are bound to be feeling a bit floored by this and it will take time to think differently.”  

DDH, which stands for deemed to have deserved honours, can be awarded when students either fail or are absent from the exams due to extenuating circumstances.  

The email goes on to advise students that “as with any challenge in life, it's what you do next that really matters” and then invites them to read a blog written by a student who for a third class degree in Engineering.  

But within three hours of sending the email, the Careers Service rushed out an apology.  

They acknowledged that their wording had “caused some distress” to students, adding that both the timing - with many students due to hear about their results imminently – and wording were “insensitive”.    

Evie Aspinall, president of Cambridge University’s student union, said that the original message had “understandably upset a number of students”.

She reassured finalists that “no grade is 'bad' and you should genuinely be so proud of all you've achieved this year, regardless of what ends up on a bit of paper at the end of the year”.  

Within three hours of sending the email, the Careers Service rushed out an apology

Gill Evans, emeritus professor of medieval theology and intellectual history at Cambridge University, said: “The reason it appears the student union pitched in was because of the pain caused to students by receiving this email”.  

She said that students are now “hyper sensitive” and until recently this was not the case.  

 “A few years ago the student union would be less instantly hyper sensitive to the very notion that this could be upsetting for students,” she said. “The fashion now is that student pain must be prevented pretty much at all costs.”  

The "snowflake generation" is a disparaging term now commonly used to refer to young people, who are perceived to be over-sensitive and intolerant of disagreement. 

In their follow up email, the Careers Service explained that they had been trying to raise their profile by “putting some marketing effort” into trying to “communicate effectively”.  

The message said: “Please accept our apologies for the recent email regarding exam results that has caused some distress to students.  “The Careers Service can offer help, support and guidance to students who do get results they are disappointed with.”  

A Cambridge University spokesman said: “Our careers advisers are very experienced in helping students, some of whom may be worried that not getting the results they had hoped for will affect their future careers.

“Unfortunately the timing and wording of this email caused some concern and we apologised immediately to everyone who had received it. Quite a few students were also in touch with us to say how helpful and reassuring the message was.”