Reinstate a no-detriment policy of 2019/20 nature for final year students at Middlesex

Reinstate a no-detriment policy of 2019/20 nature for final year students at Middlesex

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Isobel Howe started this petition to Middlesex University and

Dear Vice-Chancellor Professor Nic Beech,

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everybody in different ways, and one body that is often forgotten about is university students. Those studying from 2019 to 2021, have seen a year and a half of disrupted learning.

Middlesex University introduced a no-detriment policy last year (2019/20), which was a huge relief and help to those graduating in the face of the unprecedented and worsening pandemic. This based degree classifications on the best 120 credits achieved in years two and three (or at levels five and six). For students graduating this year, who have had two years of online summer 'exams' - we get a minimal package, with no mention of a no-detriment policy.

Instead of a grade classification safety net, we received news of an extension of written assignments (introduced in March, when a lot of courses have finished the coursework elements of their subjects!), fewer restrictions on re-sits (well everybody is aiming to re-sit the most important exams of their lives, aren't they!) and a 'rounding up' policy which only benefits those students on the borderlines of grade classifications. The lack of consistency is unfair.

This petition asks for a reconsideration of the policy announced because we believe students urgently need a no-detriment policy.

The measures announced by Vice-Chancellor, Nic Beech for 2020/21 are not sufficient to support students; many of whom are based in the UK and have studied relentlessly through three national lockdowns in this global pandemic.

We are grateful that Middlesex has helped many vulnerable students through the pandemic, transitioning fairly flawlessly to an online platform and increasing mental well-being support for students. However, given that they have waited until today -March the 2nd - a month before the official exam period starts, we believe that we deserve more - more sympathy, increased policy change and a guarantee that we have not wasted the last three/four/five years of our lives studying a degree only to have our grades impacted force majeure.

National lockdowns have placed an unbearable strain on those studying. Many students are planning to sit exams with a minimal number of resources, poor internet connection and mixed home environments, some of which include sharing desks, bedrooms and working space with the family. Moreover, students who come from lower-income families, for example, are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and have had an entirely different learning experience this year. Further, the psychological impacts of the pandemic will inevitably affect exam results. The prolonged nature of lockdowns and restrictions, although accounted for at the beginning of the academic year, were not what students or staff expected to be a longer-term reality.

Unforeseen also, are the mental and physical impacts of COVID-19 on students. Some have suffered from the illness and/or have lost family/friends/neighbours. Either way, the mental wellbeing of many students, if not all, has been affected. Our deepest condolences and sympathies are with those who have lost, and our good wishes and positive energies are with those currently struggling. By reinstating the no-detriment policy, Middlesex University is safeguarding the grades of those who have been affected directly and indirectly by the pandemic and offering slightly more compensation than just deferrals and extensions.

The announcement reasons that "a new algorithm was likely to undermine" the confidence, value and quality that future employers have when looking at our degrees. We believe that this argument is null and void. This is because students in other institutions have been granted a no-detriment policy. How are we to compete fairly with those students?

From my experience at Middlesex, I know the Board and MDXSU do not take decisions lightly. That being said, by announcing this policy just one month before the start of the exams period, we believe that our opinion will not be heard and advocated for. Considering this is an issue that has been present since the same time last year, we find it hard to believe that measures were not evaluated earlier on. We also want to point out that the decision was delayed several times, so students expected an announcement early on in February, not March.

This petition does not criticise the academics working at the University. We recognise and appreciate their hard work and efforts both to accommodate online learning and to aid students who are struggling.

I encourage anyone studying at Middlesex to sign this petition so that we can be proud of our alma mater, and so that Middlesex follows in the footsteps of many other institutions around the country that have treated their students with a bit more empathy. I also encourage any signatories to share their personal experiences of studying with Middlesex during COVID-19, if suitable and you feel comfortable doing so.

Students can upvote this petition to the Vice-Chancellor, Nic Beech at N.Beech@mdx.ac.uk.

Yours Sincerely,

The Students of Middlesex University

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