Firstly, I want to say that I appreciate this is an exceptionally difficult time for our students, and the wider University community. The impact of COVID-19 has profoundly changed our lives and I know many people will be juggling competing priorities and real worries about family and friends.
I also appreciate that you have been concerned about forthcoming assessments and exams.
Our aim is to give reassurance to our students at a collective and individual level whilst ensuring we are treating all students fairly and maintaining the value of our degrees. This is not an easy balance but we are committed to putting the wellbeing of you, our students, at the centre of our decisions.
Last week, we set out our initial measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on your assessments, including ‘no detriment’ for our 2020 student cohort. We received feedback from students, particularly those in their final year, who wanted further clarity about the safety net we want to implement.
Over the weekend, we have been reviewing the new guidance we received on Friday last week from our regulator, the Office for Students, on a range of issues including assessments.
In light of the guidance from the Office for Students, which provided more clarity for universities, we are now able to give additional assurances to our final-year undergraduate students, namely that, provided you meet the essential criteria:
No student will receive a class lower than the class which they would have been awarded on the basis of their performance up to and including semester 1 of their final year.
This complements the initial measures set out and gives an enhanced safety net for final year undergraduates at an individual level.
The essential criteria are that final-year undergraduate students must have taken the assessments that have been set, and must have obtained the same number of credits as they would normally have been required to obtain for the award of their degree. This assurance also applies to students on undergraduate Masters courses.
Of course, we know our students are hard-working and ambitious. If final year undergraduate students do sufficiently well in the semester 2 assessment to merit a higher degree classification, they will receive one. Many students perform even better in Semester 2 than Semester 1 and you will want to achieve the best degree you can for further study or your future career. For those students asking whether their hard work and dedication will pay off, I can confirm you will receive recognition if you do better in the forthcoming assessments.
For those students in earlier years of your degrees, and postgraduate taught students, I know you will have additional questions about how this applies to you.
For undergraduate students in year 2, the issue is more complex, as students on different courses will have completed different amounts of assessment. We will be applying similar principles to those developed for final year undergraduates, outlined above. However, given the variation that exists between courses, we will be reviewing the details of how this is applied to ensure an equitable approach.
For postgraduate taught students, we need to take into account the different structure of the courses and the weightings for assessments including the significant dissertation. Again, we will be looking at how we can apply a fair and equitable approach for you.
Our approach is in line with many other universities in the sector, although it is worth noting that different universities weight their assessment in very different ways over the duration of a degree, so each university needs to consider both sector guidance and local circumstance. Please bear with us as we work hard on these details in order to provide more information as soon as possible.
In the meantime, I hope this provides reassurance to those final year students who have asked for additional clarity.
These circumstances are unprecedented in the lifetime of our University, and I hope we can all pull together to navigate the next few months with compassion. We will be in touch again soon with further information.
With kind regards,
Professor Peter Lambert,
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching)