Thanks to all of our students who have been in touch with The Union and our Student Officers to let us know your thoughts on the University’s new Safety Net policies.
Since the announcements last Thursday, we’ve been collating your feedback and we’ll use it to guide our conversations with the University.
Many students have welcomed these changes with a sigh of relief. However, others have been left with feelings of unfairness, with some saying, “We’ve ALL been affected by coronavirus, and we ALL need reassurance we are protected.”
The argument is that every student and their assessments have been disrupted by the complexity and hardship which coronavirus has caused. These students feel that the ‘Safety Net’ and ‘No Detriment’ policies should be applied to relieve the pressures faced by all students, rather than to focus on direct changes to assessments alone.
The new ‘No Detriment,’ Level 6 average calculation has caused confusion, as it only excludes marks for ‘alternative assessments’. Students tell us it’s not clear to them which of their assessments have been replaced with an ‘alternative’, they’re also not sure how to seek out this information. This has inadvertently become the focus of attention for many students, distracting their efforts away from assessments and has had an overall detrimental effect on motivation.
The University is yet to fully articulate what this means in practice. Students are asking “What is ‘Contextualised Marking?’” and “How will this apply to me?” They tell us they can’t rely on a vague understanding of Contextualised Marking in isolation, to reassure them that their degree classifications are protected from the impact of coronavirus. Students are telling us that they feel changes to marking practices can’t be truly effective in addressing the true impact on performance, nor can they be convinced of the processes for applying this fairly and consistently.
The current policy applies to students who have had changes to their assessments, such as an examination that has moved online, or a practical replaced with another form of assessment. Students who have no changes to their assessments will have all of their assessment marks in Level 6 included in their final year average. Whilst the University insists these students’ marks will be protected by ‘Contextualised Marking,’ students want the same reassurances as those with changes to assessments. We believe a ‘No Detriment,’ approach could go some way to mitigate the complex intersection of issues all students are facing, rather than just soften changes to assessments.
Postgraduate students are between a rock and hard place at the moment. Trying to complete their study or research under unprecedented circumstances, with few reassurances and so far, nothing similar to the types of the policy protections as undergraduates.
The daily experience of being a Postgraduate student has only become more complicated. Where postgraduate study may have previously existed in balance alongside part-time work, for some that balance has become seemingly impossible to manage. Now for many, it exists alongside childcare, unemployment, a lack of access to resources and a world frankly tipped upside down. Postgrads are asking, “Just exactly how am I meant to do this?”
Students want to know exactly how the University plans to mitigate the impact of disruption on their study and research, and the classification of their postgraduate degree. Ultimately, students want an experience that is as close as it can be to what they signed up for.
As a Union, we think we understand the issues and the complex environment you are working under pretty well now. We will be pushing the University to find bespoke solutions for Postgraduate students who need policies and options that work for them.
Students from a range of professional and vocational courses have got in touch to tell us about their experiences and concerns. For them, protecting their final degree classification only goes some way to addressing the impact coronavirus will have upon their study and practice. They ultimately want to know that they can still continue their practice, enter the workplace, or continue into further study having developed the skills and outcomes they need. Many are concerned about their professional accreditations and for completing portfolios and final projects, they need to demonstrate their abilities. These students require bespoke solutions and individual responses to these issues, that can’t be resolved with University-wide policies. We are making the University aware of all these concerns, please continue to get in touch and we will work on these on a case-by-case basis. This will take time but will ultimately result in more relevant solutions.
The Union is working hard to represent all of our students. That’s why we've created a new form, which captures your issues, concerns and suggestions. Once you've filled it in, we can review all of the responses and either take your feedback to the University, let you know who is best for you to contact (this could be the Student Hubs or your Programme Team) or a member of our Advice Team will get in touch to help you.