Stalin's vital tools in controlling Eastern Europe post-Nazi Germany? Coleslaw, potato salad and sausage rolls, according to one unfortunate student.

Apparently the Russian dictator was not building up a buffer zone in the region after the end of the Second World War but rather a "buffet zone", an altogether much more jolly image than the truth.

In a paper on the Cold War, the Canterbury Christ Church student, for whom Stalin's actions were more along the lines of a street party than a military move wrote: "In 1945, Stalin began to build a buffet zone in Eastern Europe."

This tragic mistake is just one of the many exam howlers submitted to the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine for its annual competition.

joseph stalin

Stalin's actual interest buffets remains unconfirmed

This year's entries reveal how university students have been stumped by historical events, caught out by spelling mistakes, misquoted or plain whiffed on facts in their exams.

The mistake "conjures an image of Uncle Joe constructing a trestle table 'curtain' from the Baltic to the Adriatic to keep the rapacious capitalists at bay with canapes, sausage rolls and cocktail sausages," modern history professor Kevin Ruane said of the error.

Another student confused medievalist David Ganz, emeritus professor in palaeography at King's College London, by suggesting that during the Middle Ages "most books were written on valium" rather than the more traditional vellum.

And Liverpool University don John Fisher, emeritus professor of Latin American history, was reliable told that "Spain was a very Catholic country, since Christianity had been taken there in the third century BC," which is somewhat chronologically difficult.

chaucer canterbury tales

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written while on valium, apparently

In an essay on Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski and his "laboratory theatre" which required a physically demanding style of acting, one student wrote about actor Ryszard Cieslak "straining at their role in the lavatory theatre".

Referencing proved a problem for one English student.

Bella Millett, English professor at Southampton University, submitted an entry in which a student had introduced a quotation from a secondary source with "As Ibid says".

In another entry, a student reliably informed their tutor that the four Ps of marketing were "product, price, place, distribution".