College clangers baffle examiners

For years scientists thought they knew what caused the hole in the ozone layer, but now it appears they could have been wrong - it may have been "arseholes" that were responsible for the problem.

Paul the Octopus and World Cup pundit confused one student with his predictions
Paul the Octopus and World Cup pundit confused one student with his predictions

That was the answer given by one university student in an exam paper,according to his tutor, who suggested that the befuddled scholar may have been thinking of "aerosols".

And while environmentalists are pondering the state of the earth's atmosphere, historians may be questioning all they know about Hitler's role in the Second World War after one student reliably revealed that the dictator's role in the conflict "is often overlooked".

The howlers are among the many bloopers submitted by university lecturers to the Times Higher Education magazine's annual exam howlers competition.

The entries reveal how university students have been left flummoxed in the exam hall or caught out by spelling mistakes.

John Milliken, a lecturer in education at Ulster University put forward the claim by one student that "the (hole in the) ozone layer was caused by arseholes".

"He probably meant aerosols, but then... maybe not," the lecturer said.

Another of Dr Milliken's students gave a unusual summary on the future of transportation in a paper on vehicle emissions, suggesting that "In future all cars (will) be fitted with Catholic converters".

Britta Osthaus, senior lecturer in psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University, who teaches a course on the mental capacities of animals, said that she had been surprised to read that "octopuses are intelligent because they have been found to be able to predict the winners of football matches during the World Cup".

This may have been a reference to Paul the Octopus, the cephalopod said to have "predicted" the results of football matches in the 2010 World Cup.

Another student managed to baffle his tutor, Alix Green of the University of Hertfordshire, by announcing in his exam paper that "Hitler's role in the Second World War is often overlooked".

History also proved tricky for another student, writing about London's social scene in the 18th century in a paper on the creation of the Spectator publication in 1711.

He suggested: "Within these coffeehouses, men from all different parts of the world could interfere with each other". The gaffe was submitted by Andrew Rudd, lecturer in English literature at the University of Exeter who marked the paper.

Suzanne Reimer, senior lecturer in geography at Southampton University said that one student this year had observed that "globalisation has led to a growing interconnectedness between small-scale people and larger-scale cities across the globe".