Student and Staff Wellbeing

Covid-19 Update - 15 April 2020

Covid-19 Update Message - 15 April 2020

Lucy Backhurst, Academic Registrar, shares the latest updates with taught programme students.

Dear taught programme students

I hope you all had a good Easter weekend, despite the current situation.

I apologise for the late email but we promised to send you further information today and it has taken some time to finalise the information that follows.

In this update you will find more information about the assessment Safety Net and supporting resources, an update on accommodation with information from your Students’ Union Sabbatical Officers, and, for appropriate students, details of the In-Sessional English language programme.

Safety Net and supporting resources

As you know, in recognition of the exceptional circumstances with regard to your assessment this year, we have introduced a Safety Net for students on undergraduate, integrated masters and taught postgraduate programmes where possible (some accrediting bodies may not permit this for the programmes they accredit) in all years of study, in respect of their assessments, progression, awards and classifications.

A key element of our Safety Net is that we will calculate a provisional baseline average for each student on the basis of performance in assessment up to the end of Semester 1 of 2019-20. Students must meet the learning outcomes of their programme by achieving the normal requirements in respect of the amount of credit awarded for their Semester 2 modules.

Understandably, many of you have questions about how your baseline average will be calculated, and the enhanced package of support that accompanies the Safety Net, including the Personal Extenuating Circumstances (PEC) process, Covid-19 Impact Form, and the opportunity to defer all your remaining Semester 2 assessments. Many of you have also asked other questions about how assessment will operate for the rest of 2019-20, given our move to remote assessment.

We have prepared an updated and expanded set of Frequently Asked Questions based on the questions we received from you, to cover all aspects of our approach to assessment for the rest of 2019-20, including details of the Safety Net approach and associated support. We would strongly encourage you to take the time to read them carefully. (I would recommend that you check the FAQs website from 9am tomorrow when all updates will be available.)

For those of you who were due to sit examinations in the summer assessment period, this will now be either take home exams or will be set as an alternative assessment (eg a piece of coursework). Your school will be in touch once the assessment for your programme has been finalised. This will be no later than Monday 27 April 2020. We will also publish the exam timetable for take home exams no later than 27 April.

Supporting Resources

Colleagues across the University are creating a bank of information designed to support you with remote learning and assessment. We have published some of these resources on the Academic Skills Kit (ASK) website in a new dedicated area - These resources will be expanded over the coming days.

In addition, the Library web pages provide support for you in accessing and using online resources and online tutorials are available from the Writing Development Centre via Zoom.

As a reminder, if you do not have a computer or laptop you can use for studying, or have no or very limited access to an internet connection and are currently in receipt of financial hardship support, you may be eligible for support with IT equipment through the COVID-19 Student Offer. Please consider your needs carefully before making a request; if you loan a laptop and don’t need it, it could deprive someone who does.

In-Sessional English Language Support

For students who are undertaking In-Sessional English, the Team are keen to continue to support you. For those of you already registered on modules, lesson materials will be sent to you directly by your class teacher and you will have the opportunity to ask your teacher questions online.

We will also write to you directly with details of how to register for new online modules designed to support you in writing your dissertation.

Finally, you will have the opportunity to book 1-to-1 online Writing Tutorials. Details about the booking procedure is available on the In Sessional English website.


As you know, the University has agreed to waive all third term fees for students who have left their University-owned accommodation. We have also been working closely with the large private student accommodation providers in Newcastle to negotiate a refund for those students who have left their term-time residence.

The fragmentation of these large providers means there is no single approach, but the University has been able to agree a rebate scheme with each partner. The Sabbatical Officers from the Students’ Union have helpfully compiled information on the differing approaches of these private providers.

NUSU has also written to the City Council and private landlords in order to negotiate on behalf of students who are either still in private houses or who have vacated their flats. The letter has received a response and consideration is being given to schemes to support students over this period. Schemes being considered include payment holidays, rent reductions and structured payment plans, but as yet, no agreement has been reached. The private landlord sector is even more diverse than the purpose-built student accommodation sector, so the outcome of these discussions are likely to vary between landlords.

Students still living in University accommodation in Newcastle continue to be supported by the University and, difficult though it is, we would remind you to follow the strict Government and Public Health England guidance on self-isolation and social distancing. The guidance is in place to keep us all safe and to ensure that the NHS has the capacity to help the people who most need it.

Newcastle City Council has produced videos in six different languages with information on how to stay well whilst staying at home. Covid-19 health information for BAME communities is also available on the Connected Voice website.

More information

Remember, the FAQs contain the latest information. If you have any further questions, please get in touch via

With thanks and best wishes,


Lucy Backhurst
Academic Registrar