14 January 2021 - Assessment Support Measures

Issued: Thu, 14 Jan 2021 12:00:00 GMT

Assessment Support Measures

Dear Students,

I know that you have all been affected by the pandemic and the restrictions that you are experiencing as a result of it, as well as the anxiety and stress that comes with this. I understand the difficulties that you are facing and why you are particularly anxious about assessment.  We want to support you to do the best that you can. As well as other supportive measures that the University is working on, I wanted to let you know that we are developing assessment support measures for both undergraduate and postgraduate taught students which take into account, and mitigate as far as possible, the impact of the pandemic on your assessment this academic year. I hope this will help to reassure you.

Arrangements for postgraduate research students will be communicated separately by the Vice Principal for Research.

The assessment support measures are being fully discussed with the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) who have already provided valuable input into them.

The principles that we are applying in developing these measures are:

  • We will ensure fairness to students in all of our assessment decisions
  • We will prepare guidance that will ask staff to carefully consider the impact of the pandemic on students and where there is uncertainty, to act in the student’s interest
  • We will ensure that students are treated consistently, regardless of discipline or school (while ensuring that professional/accreditation requirements are still met in subjects where these apply).
  • We will make it clear that students can only be assessed on teaching that has been covered.
  • We will preserve the high standard of our awards and therefore the value of your degree.

 

We are focusing on the following areas:

  1. Dissertations and similar projects – we understand that students with dissertations this year (both undergraduate and postgraduate taught students) may be particularly anxious about their ability to produce a high quality dissertation in the current circumstances so we are prioritising work on guidance about this.
  2. Extensions for coursework and dissertation submission – we are reviewing options for more flexibility.
  3. Good Cause – making the process for applying for Good Cause as simple and straight forward as possible.
  4. Deferral – we are considering ways we might simplify the process for students to request deferral of exams in exceptional cases.
  5. Resits – we are reviewing our policy and considering a number of options of benefit to students.
  6. Progress and entry to Honours – we are providing guidance to staff in Schools about scope for relaxing the normal requirements for progress to Honours.

We will also look at further areas proposed by colleagues and students if we believe that they will be of benefit to students. If you have any suggestions, please get in touch with the SRC.

We know that you would like to see fully worked out measures now, however we need to consider the details carefully to ensure that we provide clear and comprehensive measures that support students across the entire University. In the meantime, while we work on these, please continue to work and plan for sitting your exams and submitting your assessments as well as you can, in the knowledge that a package of measures to benefit and support you is in development.

We have heard your requests for reinstatement of the No Detriment Policy (NDP) which we used last year in the emergency circumstances of the first wave of the pandemic.  However, we can’t reintroduce exactly the same policy this year for the following reasons:

  1. The No Detriment Policy was introduced in April 2020 in response to the national lockdown that began in March 2020 and led to the sudden closure of our campuses and the cancellation of on campus teaching and exams. It was produced in response to that specific situation and relied on the fact that the majority of teaching had been delivered for that academic year, so could refer to assessment taken before the pandemic. Academic year 2020-21 is different: teaching and assessment has been designed in the context of the pandemic, recognising the need for the majority of learning and assessment to take place online; and in addition, there is no ‘non-pandemic’ period that can be used as a benchmark for your performance.
  2. If we use the No Detriment policy two years running, we would have some students with very little assessment available on which to make decisions about progression. For example, the vast majority of students in first year last year had no assessment after 15 March 2020. In some cases, this meant that students had very little assessment in their course during that academic year. These students are now in second year. If they have no end of year exams this year, they would have very little assessment on which to base decisions about progression to Honours and so these decisions could not be made fairly. There would be similar difficulties associated with the volume of assessment completed for other years.
  3. The No Detriment policy was applied to all students regardless of their individual circumstances because the initial impact of the pandemic was felt by all students as they had to unexpectedly adapt to online learning and assessment. While we recognise that you have all been affected by the pandemic, we know that some of you face greater difficulties, with some of you having to manage child care, concerns about your own and your relatives’ health, less than ideal online learning circumstances due to space and IT constraints, and so on. Although we appreciate that the uncertainty and anxiety generated by the pandemic affects all of you, we believe that we need a policy that is more responsive to individual circumstances.

 

Finally, I want you to know that we are on your side and we want you to do as well as you possibly can. We will get detailed information to you as soon as possible but in the meantime, it is important that you let us know if you are experiencing particular difficulties so that we can help you. Your Schools should let you know who to contact or you can contact the HelpDesk in case of difficulties.

With best wishes,

Jill 

Professor Jill Morrison

Clerk of Senate