Can A Professor Fail An Entire Class

Can A Professor Fail An Entire Class

You may have heard the rumors that a professor failed an entire class. It sounds unfair but you start wondering whether professors can actually do this and whether it’s even allowed at all.

The truth is that, while it’s rare, professors can fail an entire class, and make it stick, provided they have valid reasons considered acceptable by the dean.

While students may believe professors may be abusing their authority in such cases, you should keep in mind that schools have policies that professors are expected to adhere to.

Failing a single student is nothing new but failing an entire class comes with a lot of questions, and angry responses from parents, and the general public.

So, professors would only risk this backlash when they have no other option.

Guidelines For Failing A Whole Class At A University

Whatever your reasons may be, failing an entire class is nothing to joke about. It could significantly decrease a student’s GPA and some may even lose their scholarships and financial aid.

As such, professors are expected to follow the educational institution’s policies on the subject. But while these policies may differ depending on the school, the most common elements include:

Valid Reason

Professors can’t just get up and decide to fail their entire class without a justifiable cause. Schools don’t like to deal with angry students and parents, not forgetting the negative publicity.

Such decisions need to pass through the dean and teachers are expected to provide proof to justify their reasoning.

Formal Process

When a professor notices that students are underperforming and they identify the reasons behind this, they can provide students with opportunities to improve their grades.

If they aren’t sure why students are underperforming, they need to determine this by meeting with students so they can express their concerns. This will enable the professor to identify the best way forward for the current class and subsequent classes.

For instance, a professor who finds out a prerequisite course did not fully prepare students for their class, can take action to rectify the problem, to avoid the situation repeating itself.

Professor’s Responsibilities

What’s the professor’s role in the failure of their students? Did they miss classes and simply decide to fail the class? Are they failing students for personal reasons?

Is the professor being fair? Professors should keep these and more in mind before they decide to fail their entire class.

Check out these other related posts:

Reasons For Failing An Entire Class

While there may be unique circumstances and reasons why a professor may fail an entire class, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most popular reasons.

Ignored Prerequisite

Some courses expect students to complete the prerequisite course or courses before they enroll. A professor may fail an entire class when they find out that the students refused to take the requisite courses before enrolling for their class.

This is a very common issue as some students simply believe they already know the materials taught in the prerequisite classes.

Unfortunately, jumping into a class without meeting the requirements can lead to underperformance. And while it’s rare for an entire class to ignore completing the prerequisite course for their classes, these students would in most cases end up failing the course.

Underperformance In Smaller Classes

Some classes aren’t popular at college and you’ll always find a handful of students in such classes. You could find as few as 2 students in some classes due to the difficulty associated with them.

Sometimes, it’s also because of the uncompromising reputation of the professor that may be resulting in a smaller enrollment number.

It’s a lot less surprising to hear a professor failed a class of 5 students due to poor academic performance. Professors in such cases would still need to justify failing the class but the impact is significantly less in such smaller classes as opposed to larger ones.

Academic Integrity

Professors may fail a class that breaches the school’s policies like academic integrity. A typical example is a professor failing a class for cheating on the final examination.

While it’s rare for the entire class to be involved in the act, it’s highly possible in the case of smaller classes. Larger classes could lead to loads of negative publicity and attention that most universities would rather avoid.

Behavioral Issues

This is also rare but there have been cases where professors ended up failing entire classes due to unacceptable behavior. Students were accused of insulting their professors, refusing to submit assignments, and making the lectures outright uncomfortable.

As punishment for their actions, professors who were fed up with this behavior resorted to failing their entire classes. In most cases, the public outcry led to the university investigating the issue and re-evaluating student grades.

Class Experiment

This one may be unique but there was a story a few years back about an economics professor who ended up failing an entire class that insisted socialism worked, and that no one would be poor or rich.

In this experiment, the students received the average grade irrespective of their personal scores. The professor would strike the average of the grades of students and would assign the average to everyone.

Unfortunately, this eventually resulted in high-performing students putting in little effort owing to the fact that other students simply refused to put in little to no effort at all.

Eventually, the class average kept falling in subsequent tests, till they all ended up failing.

Poor Instructor Coordination

This has more to do with the professor than the students but students end up paying for it.

Instructors of prerequisite classes who aren’t acquainted with the content of the subsequent class could end up not covering relevant topics necessary for the upcoming class.

Students who complete such prerequisite classes would not have the necessary training to help them in subsequent classes that build on the perceived knowledge from the prerequisite class.

These students are unable to keep up and may end up underperforming in class.

Both professors should coordinate to better create a syllabus that fully prepares students by the time they’re done with the prerequisite courses.

Process Of Failing An Entire Class

Failing an entire class shouldn’t be taken lightly. But if a professor decides to proceed, how do they go about it? While each university has its own process for the purpose, we’ll take a look at some of the most common elements.

Improvement Opportunities

Before failing an entire class, professors are expected to provide students with an opportunity to make up for their poor overall grades. This can be through assignments, project work, additional tests, and more.


Professors can’t simply decide to fail an entire class without justification. They’re expected to present their reasons for making such decisions and also include any necessary evidence to back their claims.

Formal Hearing

Depending on the university, students may be given the opportunity to defend themselves while professors also present evidence to back their claims. Keep in mind that this may not be the case in every university.


The consequences of such decisions could be detrimental to some students. So, it’s not surprising that schools provide students the opportunity to appeal such decisions by their professors.

Akshay Vikhe

I am an aspiring Data Scientist with a huge interest in technology. I like to review courses that are genuine and add real value to student’s careers. Read my story

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