After a tumultuous first term, the University has re-introduced safety net policies and a grace period for assessments during the pandemic. This comes after a term of student pressure, but what is the detail of the measures being introduced?
The Grace Period gives students an extra five working days from the original deadline
Under the measures, there will be a continuation of the ‘Grace Period’ – something which was not done by all departments during January assessments. The Grace Period gives students an extra five working days from the original deadline to submit “substantial coursework”. Students will not need to apply for this extension although any further extensions will need to be applied for.
The exemptions to this Grace Period could include in-class tests, live presentations, posters, workshop activities, lab activities and short written assessments. Departments will email students about the specifics of the grace period over the nest week. The policy will run from now until two weeks before the start of the assessment period in the middle of May.
The most significant measure is that the University will “Ask moderators and Exam Boards to compare pre- and post-COVID-19 marks in semester one and two assessments to further ensure that student performance is judged fairly”. This comes after over 8,000 students signed a letter to the University’s executive board calling for the re-introduction of the safety net.
The concerns highlighted in this letter are echoed in the University’s reasoning for the policy where it was stated that “The COVID-19 learning, and assessment environment is different to that pre-COVID-19”. Despite the similarity of reasoning, they did not directly credit the letter writing campaign and highlighted students’ use of extenuating circumstances (EC) during the last assessment period.
In the Physics Department alone, 125 EC forms were submitted between 1st January and 26th January (compared to just 279 EC forms across the whole of the 2019/20 period), with an email from the department saying, “We believe that the EC process is the best way of managing the effects of COVID”.
The use of ECs pushed the University into making such a decision
Despite this type of stance by individual departments, many students felt that the EC process was not helpful enough with a post by the Instagram account called “The Student Assembly” calling it “as useful as chocolate teapot”. It is unsurprising then that the use of ECs pushed the University into making such a decision.
It is yet to be seen how students will react to these changes. Most, however, seem largely supportive of the new policy and its ability to meet the demands of the open letter asking for the re-introduction of an academic safety net. As the term goes on, there is sure to be varying reactions to the new policy and its academic impact across the student body.
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