As ever, I hope you are keeping safe and well. I am acutely aware of the stress and uncertainty you may be feeling, and the practical and personal pressures you are under during these unsettling times. I also share your disappointment in this strange end to your academic year when you should be celebrating all you have achieved. We remain committed to supporting you to the best of our abilities in the remainder of Semester 2.
As part of this, the University has been giving detailed consideration to what form assessments should take, recognising that many students will not be on campus, and indeed some may be self-isolating, have responsibilities to family or be ill. The University is also aware of the importance to students that its degrees maintain quality and standards, noting the statement from the Minister of State for Universities which made clear last week that universities should enable students to leave with qualifications that have real value and reflect their hard work.
Although, as you will be aware, this is a rapidly changing situation and we are awaiting further guidance from the universities regulator, the Office for Students (in common with many other Universities) we have decided to set out below more details concerning our plans for assessments.
These are the result of consultations with a wide range of external and internal stakeholders. Our Students’ Union have been important in ensuring the views of the student community are communicated to us. The approach below is intended to ensure that students are not disadvantaged due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their studies and provides a ‘safety net’ to ensure that the Covid-19 pandemic does not detrimentally impact your academic achievement. Key principles are set out below:
No detriment to our students
The University is committed to ensuring ‘no detriment’ for our 2020 student cohort at PGT and UG level. This means that it will ensure that the average of the outcomes for each year of the 2020 student cohort are collectively no worse than the average of the outcomes of the previous three cohorts for the appropriate year group.
In addition, we will be looking at the final degree outcomes of every student very carefully and on an individual basis. Through this process, we will ensure that individual degree outcomes are either in line with the result that could reasonably be expected based on previous achievement, including both semester examination results and coursework results, or indeed better if students show improvement in their performance in their final assessments.
‘Safety net’ measures
The University has identified, and is implementing, measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your assessment, progression, and award results. We will do this as part of our academic decision-making, without any action needed from you beyond your engagement with your study and assessments.
The University will be taking the following steps as part of a ‘safety net’ for our students:
Departments are redesigning your assessments to ensure they remain a fair and appropriate test of your learning in an online environment, and to give you the opportunity to fully demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
Departments have been given authority to account for the COVID-19 disruption when considering your results. Exam Boards will check academic decisions using individual, unit and cohort profiles – to compare students’ results against previous years and ensure they are not disadvantaged, adjusting marks or scaling if necessary.
We have extended the assessment period by two weeks to take into account unforeseen circumstances and extend deadlines, reducing the pressure on our staff and students. This means you will receive your grades and outcomes from summer assessments slightly later than originally planned.
If you are not able to complete assessments during this summer period, you will be allowed to defer your assessment to August/September 2020 or later, if necessary, due to the continued impact of the COVID-19.
We will describe the context for results in a paper to accompany your transcript and other records of achievements, so employers understand the University’s approach.
Individual Mitigating Circumstances
The wellbeing of students is of paramount importance to us and, of course, we recognise that despite all the additional processes we have in place, some individuals will unfortunately find themselves in very difficult circumstances. Students should be assured that we will be taking extra account of the overall impact of COVID-19 as outlined above and therefore you do not have to submit Individual Mitigating Circumstance (IMC) claims. However, we recognise that students will have potential significant impacts from COVID-19 that have affected them individually – for example, you or a relative have become ill with the virus during the assessment period and its run-up. In these circumstances you should submit an IMC and we will take into account that the usual level of evidence cannot always be provided.
As normal, you can submit IMCs for other significant individual circumstances you would like us to take into account when considering your results.
You can find more information on all of this through our Frequently Asked Questions page which will be regularly updated as we continue to develop and enhance our plans.
We know you are ambitious and dedicated, and have invested considerably in your studies – personally, financially and emotionally. As a University, we take our duty to support you very seriously and all of us will continue to do everything we can to help you succeed. I hope this information provides you with greater clarity and alleviates some of your concerns. I also hope you will be able to get some rest over the coming Easter period, and return to your work refreshed for the remainder of the academic year.
Best wishes, Peter