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Masters of Wine vote to keep third exam paper

Masters of Wine have voted to retain a third, written paper for students, after a week of intense debate.

Of the 251 Masters of Wine (MWs) who voted, decanter.com can confirm from sources close to the situation that 153 voted against a motion to reduce the examination process to just the practical and theory exams, versus 95 ‘for’. Two MWs abstained and one ballot paper was unreadable.

Voting was opened following a heated debate at last week’s annual general meeting of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW), which also marked 60 years since the first MWs came into being.

Exact pass rates for the MW exams are unclear, but more fail than get through. One complaint has been that a number of MW students fail the dissertation after passing both the practical and theory exams. However, the dissertation pass rate is 92% for the most recent academic year, the IMW said.

The vote result means the IMW’s board will press ahead with replacing the current dissertation module with a shorter ‘research paper’, of between 6,000 to 10,000 words.

‘There are transitional arrangements for those who are already in the dissertation process,’ an IMW spokesperson said.

In a public note on the research paper, the IMW denied that it is lowering standards by switching from the dissertation.

It said students will have broader scope to follow their interests. Students will still write the paper in their third year of examination, but will receive greater support in the first two years, it added.

A key aspect of the debate has been whether a dissertation makes the MW unnecessarily academic. It has always been a trade qualification.

Richard Bampfield MW said that a final piece of research adds international gravitas to the MW title. ‘I think it would have been foolish to give it up,’ he told decanter.com.

He hopes that MW pass rates will improve with the new research paper. ‘It’s not acceptable to have an awful lot of students who pass the first two parts and then find themselves at an impasse’.

He added, ‘I think it’s really positive that the IMW had the courage to address this’. Several MWs declined to comment on the matter when contacted by decanter.com.

Written by Chris Mercer

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