Ulster University: Introduce a ‘safety net’ mitigation system for summer assessments

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Covid-19 has affected every student at Ulster University. The university has sought to bring all classes online meaning students are missing out on being taught to the usual standard and many have missed out on essential practical workshops for their courses. This is on top of many classes being missed due to strikes in semester 1 and semester 2. Now all university buildings have closed, students can not access library books or other essential learning facilities. Many students mental health will be extremely negatively impacted by the pandemic, many will have to work in unsuitable environments that will not allow them to work to their full potential, and many will be hindered by coronavirus directly affecting them or their loved ones. Thus far, the university has not done enough to support its students, with many being told their assessments will be carried about in the same way despite the lack of proper teaching or support.

We are asking Ulster University to introduce a mitigation system similar to the one introduced by the University of Exeter in order to bring fairer results for 2nd/3rd year undergraduates and postgraduate students.

At 9.40AM on 25/03/2020, the University of Exeter announced that student assessment would be mitigated through a "safety net" policy. The Deputy Vice Chancellor wrote that:

"So long as [students] would qualify to progress/graduate based on [their] marks obtained this year ... then [the university] will ensure that [students'] final academic year average is the same as, or higher than, the average [they] have attained up to Sunday 15th March."

"If [students] achieve higher marks in assessments submitted and examinations undertaken after Sunday 15th March then [they] will be able to raise your mark for the year."

In summary, "as long as you qualify to pass the year, completing the summer assessments can only help not hinder you because we will not let the extraordinary circumstances in which you are completing these assessments leave you with a mark below your current overall mark."

Considering the exceptional and unexpected circumstances brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, this type of mitigating system will help to create more equal results for students being assessed at the University.

This is because it allows students to achieve a grade which reflects their work under ordinary circumstances, whilst providing an incentive to do well in summer assessments and still giving students who did not achieve their desired grades last semester a chance to improve.

In addition, students of QUB today received the following in an email.

“We also recognise that, for many reasons, it may not be possible to undertake the alternative assessments offered.  If you are unable or do not wish to undertake the alternative assessment, you can complete the COVID19 Alternative Assessment Student Deferral Formin advance of the assessment and submit to your School Office. Your academic progression will then be considered under the Supplementary Regulations.  This will allow for Boards of Examiners, where possible, to determine an assigned module mark for modules in which you have gaps in assessment outcomes.  The assigned marks will be based on your performance to date.  If, on the return of marks, you are dissatisfied with your assigned module mark, you will be offered the opportunity to take the deferred assessment, under normal conditions, at the next available opportunity for full marks.”

This crisis is set to escalate within the next 2 weeks. The hard work put into the final weeks of final year are crucial to do well in any degree. This pandemic is going to take that chance away from students if a change of approach is not taken by the university.

Reference: Ideas in this petition have been taken from the petition started by QUB students - “Queen’s University: Introduce a ‘safety net’ mitigation system for summer assessments”.