Introduce a Safety Net Policy for University assessments 2020/21

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With increased uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic and lockdown, solely online teaching and severe detriment to student learning opportunities and mental health, there is undoubtedly a bigger need for a Safety Net/No Detriment policy this year than 2019/20.

The ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic shows no sign of letting up and, whilst GCSEs and A-Levels are cancelled in Wales, Face to Face teaching has resumed in England and National 5 exams are cancelled in Scotland, University students still face mass uncertainty and disadvantages regarding our final grades and ability to complete assessment for the academic year 2020/21. Whilst it is understandable, given the unprecedented situation, that face to face teaching has effectively been halted, students should not be held to the same standards as those carrying out exams and dissertations in normal times. By doing this, Universities are assuming all students have a suitable environment and resources to learn and work from their accommodation or homes as they would usually. This simply isn't the case for everybody.

From online lectures to limited online teaching hours, mass levels of isolation, stress and mental health issues, difficulty sourcing primary data for dissertation projects, the possibility of industrial action, uncertainty surrounding students returning home for Christmas, a delayed start to the academic year and full tuition fees, students are being compromised from every angle. 

Holding the class of 2020/21 to the same standards as previous years is unfair, as the playing field is far from level. We must begin conversations in higher education about how students can be properly compensated, whilst still being able to learn and progress in this environment. Students should be rewarded through a baseline grade achieved in normal times, in a system which would still give the chance to exceed this without the threat of dropping below. This is particularly important for final year students, who are expected to research and complete dissertations during a national lockdown, whilst still being marked from the same criteria list.

The increased leniency of Personal Extenuating Circumstance systems for health reasons is certainly a helpful change, but fails to fully take into account what is often called the biggest health crisis in peacetime. We need more substantial assurances for students, who are currently confined to their homes with limited teaching and no interaction but still expected to complete assignments to their usual standards.