Student and Staff Wellbeing

Message from Prof Suzanne Cholerton

Message from Professor Suzanne Cholerton, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education

Dear Taught Programme students,

The last few weeks have been difficult and unsettling for us all as we worry about the health and wellbeing of those who are close to us. I very much hope that you and your family and friends are safe and well.

We know that all of you are worried about the prospect of sitting examinations and completing other assessments in these extraordinary circumstances, and that you are concerned about your ability to undertake assessments to the standard that you wish to achieve.

We strongly believe that where possible, engaging with remote delivery of teaching and completing all remaining assessments to the best of your ability in the current circumstances are in your best interests. This was reinforced to us in the guidance we received last Friday from our Regulator, the Office for Students, when they said that universities should make all reasonable efforts to enable students to complete their studies, for achievement to be reliably assessed, for qualifications to be awarded securely

However, we recognise that these are exceptional circumstances, and so, for this academic year only, we will introduce a Safety Net for our students that will apply to all taught students in all years of study in respect of their assessment, progression, awards and classifications.

The Safety Net approach, developed in partnership with our Sabbatical Officers in order to take account of the student voice, builds on the approach to assessment outlined in the email from the Academic Registrar on 24 March 2020.

We believe that a Safety Net, in conjunction with the package of other mitigating measures that we have or will put in place, will support all students to continue studying for their awards, knowing that the University will acknowledge and take account of the wide range of circumstances in which students currently find themselves.

Safety Net Policy for undergraduates and students on integrated masters programmes

The undergraduate and integrated masters safety net means that you cannot be disadvantaged by your performance in your semester 2 of 2019-20 assessments, provided that you meet the learning outcomes for your programme by achieving the normal requirements in respect of the amount of credit awarded for your Semester 2 modules. In other words, you need to pass your remaining modules for the Safety Net to apply at the end of the academic year.

For undergraduate students at all stages, and students on integrated masters programmes, the Safety Net will recognise the prior academic achievement of each student through a verified ‘baseline average’ of academic performance calculated at the end of Semester 1 of 2019-20.

We will continue to provide students with the opportunity to fulfil their potential by allowing them only to improve upon their baseline academic average by undertaking Semester 2 of 2019-20 assessments, and maintain the value and credibility of our programmes by ensuring that students are able to meet the learning outcomes of their programmes. Students will still need to complete and pass their assessments in line with University and programme regulations. 

This means that completing the summer assessments can only help and not hinder students, because we will not let the extraordinary circumstances in which students are completing these assessments leave them with a mark below their current baseline average at the end of Semester 1 of 2019-20.  

Further information on how the baseline average will be calculated for students in each stage is provided in the Frequently Asked Questions.

Safety net for postgraduate taught students

For postgraduate taught students, the Safety Net will by necessity operate differently, because taught postgraduate programmes are significantly different in structure and length to undergraduate and integrated masters programmes. Postgraduate taught students should read the Frequently Asked Questions to understand how this operates.

We recognise that there are many different types of PGT programmes (part-time,  apprenticeships etc) and that the principle of the Safety Net, that a student’s performance will not be academically disadvantaged by Covid-19, will be adhered to for our postgraduate taught students.

Programmes with external accreditation

For a number of undergraduate, integrated masters and postgraduate taught programmes with external professional accreditation, students will not automatically be eligible for the Safety Net. Many accrediting bodies seek to protect professional entry standards, requiring that students pass modules and programmes to demonstrate that learning outcomes have been met sufficiently.

If you are studying an accredited programme, further details will be confirmed to you as soon as possible following discussion with the relevant accrediting bodies.  Students on accredited programmes are asked to remember that the decisions of external accrediting bodies are not in the University’s control, but please be assured we will do what we can to support your interests.  

Other mitigating measures in place over the Covid-19 period

The Safety Net is an extraordinary measure that we are introducing in unprecedented times, to support students universally affected by Covid-19 disruption.

In introducing it, we recognise that there are many students who are having to cope with additional challenges in their personal circumstances, which make undertaking assessment in the coming months challenging or, in some cases, impossible.

We understand that such students have different needs and require additional mitigation, so we will use existing and new measures to enable us to understand their circumstances and make appropriate adjustments.

Personal Extenuating Circumstances

Many students will already be familiar with the Personal Extenuating Circumstances (PEC) process, a process that enables students to tell us if they have additional personal or individual circumstances that require specific adjustments to be made to assessment, such as extension to deadlines.

For the duration of Covid-19, the University will put in place a simplified PEC mitigation process whereby all Covid-19 and all health-related issues will not require additional supporting evidence, so that we can understand and take into account the personal circumstances in which students are undertaking their assessments.

Covid-19 Impact Form

In these unique circumstances and recognising the challenges inherent in a rapid move to remote delivery, we are introducing the Covid-19 Impact Form.

The Covid-19 Impact Form will enable students to tell us about circumstances that have affected the remote teaching on one or more modules, but where an individual does not require an immediate adjustment to their assessment. The Form could be used to inform the University of issues relating to remote teaching (e.g. access to ebook provision for a particular module). Students do not have to complete this form as we have a strategy for collecting this information from staff, but if students wish to make us aware of disruption on one or more modules, this is the process to use.  

Deferral of assessment

We understand that a number of students may be considering an opportunity to defer their assessments until the situation regarding Covid-19 has improved. A decision to defer is therefore one with significant potential consequences and students are advised to consider carefully the implications before applying for a deferral, and to discuss any such decision with academic tutors, the Careers Service, family and friends.

Given the unprecedented nature of the current situation, we are allowing taught students who wish to defer all their remaining assessments until the August assessment period, to do so without the need to provide supporting evidence.

Whilst the University recognises that there will be students whose circumstances will require them to defer, at this time the University would encourage students to sit assessments in the summer period as anticipated, knowing that if needed, a resit opportunity is available within the current academic year.

It must be noted that for students who choose to defer assessments, this would mean the following:

  • All assessments which take place in the August assessment period will be delivered and taken remotely and using similar formats as in the summer examination period (there will be no face to face assessments).
  • There will be no additional tuition for students if they elect to defer their assessments, moreover students are likely to find staff availability more limited at this time of the year.
  • Students who defer their first attempt at assessment to the August assessment period who fail their assessments at this time, will be unlikely to be able to graduate /progress as expected but may be required to resit in the next normal assessment period, which will be in the next academic year.
  • Students who plan to enter subsequent academic programmes upon graduation or who have secured places on graduate training programmes due to start in Sept/Oct 2020, may not be able to do so.

Extension to the August assessment period

The current emergency situation requires some change to the planned schedule of the academic year in order to accommodate these changes. The summer assessment period will remain as is (Monday 18 May – Friday 5 June) but the August assessment period will be extended by one week to run from Monday 17 August to Friday 4 September 2020.

Next steps

University staff are now engaged in developing and implementing this new approach to assessment and mitigation and, as I am sure you will appreciate, there is a lot of detail to work through. We will circulate more information to students on 14 April 2020, which will include online resources to support students in studying and completing assessment in the new remote model.

We would be most grateful if you would not contact your school or module leaders about these mitigation arrangements prior to 14 April whilst we work out the details. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

More information

I hope that the introduction of the Safety Net and the associated package of support measures will reassure you that we are doing everything we can to support you at this challenging time, and help mitigate the impact of the current situation on your academic performance.

Detailed information about the Safety Net, how it is calculated, and when it will be available to students is available online at Frequently Asked Questions.

Best wishes

Suzanne

Professor Suzanne Cholerton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education