2020/21 Saftey Net Policy for University of Hertfordshire Students

2020/21 Saftey Net Policy for University of Hertfordshire Students

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Abbie Hake started this petition to University of Hertfordshire

*This petition has been adapted from similar petitions circling other universities*

Amidst the first wave of the pandemic, all students at the University of Hertfordshire were granted a safety net policy which alleviated much worry and stress. With the pandemic increasing in strength and with the UK being in lockdown once again, the stress upon students is matched if not more significant than that experienced in the last academic year.

With libraries now only open for urgent reasons and sports activities drawn to a halt following lockdown 3.0, the work-life balance of students is next to none. Students have no choice but to study and live in one place with little releases for their mental well-being. This places immense stress on students to achieve to the best of their abilities despite such unprecedented times. Students have had to deal with not one, not two, but THREE national lockdowns due to rising cases that are now higher than ever, and new strains.

As per the government guidance, students have now been told to stay where they are and not travel back to University. This means that students now have to study in incompatible conditions to perform at an adequate or previously achieved level. Furthermore, we are now trapped in rental contracts (with interest-bearing loans to fund them) that we are not allowed utilise. 

Being expected to perform to the same level as before COVID without a suitable safety net is unjust. Particularly when 19/20 students were granted one for just one semester of interruption, this year we students have to adapt our learning (which has not been easy), lifestyle, coping mechanisms and reassurances not just for one term, but for the whole year (and for third-year students, almost half of their degree has been spent in a pandemic). This will definitely have an effect on student mental health and ability to perform. On top of the learning obstacles, many students are still and will still be directly affected by the pandemic, if not affecting them, affecting their loved ones which comes with much uncertainty and anxiety further hindering ability to perform well.

In this current academic year, the University has introduced 'blended learning' in an attempt to get us back onto campus. However, this has led to a lot of students feeling out of place and international, self-isolating or shielding students at a disadvantage. As well as the 'block teaching' introduced by the business school which presented yet another barrier to students achieving their desired grades. If a student is feeling unwell for a week (which is unsurprisingly common in the middle of a pandemic), a sizeable chunk of work is missed, and it is near impossible to catch up in time for the deadline. With many deadlines being less than one week after all the material for the assignment has been taught. The University has not done enough to support students, with a lack of proper teaching (not the fault of lecturers, in some cases, who are rightly scared of coming into contact with others) and support, and failing to recognise that the issues of last year persist now MORE than ever. To value a year of what should have been in-person education at £9,250, but now with limited teaching, office hours, and lack of tangible resources is outrageous. There is nothing to warrant such an extortionate cost. 

Whilst safety and signposting has become a normal part of life, the University has neglected to offer the students any respite to workload. It is time the University acted to protect the welfare of their student body.

The previous safety net applied this previous academic year would alleviate much pressure and allow a proper, unhindered assessment of our achievements by allowing us to maintain the grades we obtained in a COVID-free world. The current "safety net" introduced by the University is not enough given the current circumstances. This petition is asking for the return of the 'no detriment policy' as was given to students in the 2019/20 academic year. The current 'Saftey net policy' is not enough for the hard-working students who are being negatively affected by the current covid restrictions - particularly those in their final year.

The no detriment policy used students previous grades as a 'benchmark' in which their grades could not fall below, as long as they were obtaining a passing grade in their remaining modules in Semester B of the 2019/20 academic year. For final year students, this meant as long as they obtained passing grades in their remaining modules, their degree classification would be no lower than that calculated from their completed level 5 and 6 modules pre-covid. 

However, this year's safety net is the following:

If a module is failed and then passed when you take a referral, the grade for the referred assignment will not be capped* to the pass grade.
If a module is failed, you will be offered the chance to defer the module to the next academic year, as an alternative to a referral. Again, the grade would not be capped, and your transcripts would show it to be a first attempt.
For students in their final year of studies, the final board of examiners are able to disregard all grades from the 2019/20 academic year when calculating degree classification, if that benefits the student.
You are expected to pass all modules on your course in order to successfully complete your qualification. However, under certain circumstances the University allows you to fail up to 30 credits of modules across all years of your studies, through a process called 'compensation' at the final exam board. When the exam board 'compensates' a failed module, it also reduces the average grade used to calculate your degree classification (the 'classification grade') by 2.5% for each 15-credit-point module that needs to be compensated. But during the Covid-10 pandemic, this 2.5% penalty will not be applied except where the failure is due to a proven case of cheating in the module
 

As you can see, this is not the same. Students and their grades are still being negatively affected by the pandemic equally, if not more than in the previous academic year.

 

By signing this petition we are asking for the return of the 2019/20 safety net policy, previously instated in order to bring fairer results for students this year. Other mitigations we ask for are revised assessments, deadlines, fees, support over both University and private accommodation costs, and further costs where the value could not be maximised, e.g. gym memberships. We are asking for fairness, no more than what was given for the 2019/2020 academic year. Is this too much to ask for?

This is not what we signed up for, not what we were promised, and not what was expected or organised when joining the University. 

I wish to highlight Sussex University’s words in their Save Our Grades campaign:

If teaching and learning are not the same, why is everything else?

 

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