UK students demand 'safety net' so their grades don't suffer due to coronavirus
Students across the country fear their exam results will slip due to the coronavirus lockdown and feel let down and abandoned by university bosses.
Several petitions have been set up calling for ‘no-detriment policies’ to be put in palace. This would mean that unless they score less than 40% in marks, students would be graded on their average performance so far or higher if they perform better in coursework and summer exams.
As university facilities remain closed with no sign of the lockdown in sight, students fear the unprecedented circumstances they face will affect their studies. A petition to King’s College London said: ‘This past year of our university education has been heavily impacted by strikes and now COVID-19, meaning that we have had severely limited access to teaching and resources.
‘Many students will be struggling to study due to lack of appropriate working environments and resources, as well as being negatively impacted by mental or physical illness during this terrifying time. This no-detriment policy is necessary to ensure an equitable chance at achievement for all students.’
In a message to undergrads, Kings College executive director Darren Wallis and vice-principal Nicola Phillips said: ‘These are uncertain times and we recognise that your individual circumstances will vary considerably. I would like to assure you that all possible steps will be taken to understand your individual situation and ensure that nobody is disadvantaged. We are here to support you.’
‘Our intention is to proceed with the spring/summer assessment period for all students. First and foremost, we are committed to maintaining the quality of your education and your degree from King’s, and feel it is important to provide opportunities for you to continue your studies and complete your academic year.’
Exam formats are set to be changed to make it easier for people to complete them remotely, deadline extensions can be granted when needed and mitigating circumstances will be taken into account in assessments.
Students at a number of other universities including Reading, Sheffield Hallam and Huddersfield are also calling on their bosses to follow in the footsteps of Edinburugh, St Andrews and Exeter, who have already put no detriment policies in place.
A petition to the University of Reading said: ‘Following the closure of the University, many students will find themselves in environments unconducive with studying.
‘Lack of university facilities is significantly impacting students’ academic potential. Meanwhile mental and physical illnesses caused and exacerbated by the impacts of Covid-19 further deprive students of demonstrating their full capabilities.’
The petition signed by more than 4,000 people says a no detriment policy ‘ensures that those who perform better in exam conditions remain able to boost their final grades whilst maintaining a stimulus to revise and ensure optimum performance to improve overall grades.’
Reading has promised to publish a updated extenuating circumstances policy tomorrow.
A spokesperson for the university said: ‘The university is committed to maintaining the quality of our students’ learning outcomes and supporting their wellbeing as best we can, in these hugely challenging circumstances.
‘Exams can be a stressful time for our student community at the best of times, so we are drawing on experience we already have with take home and online exams to provide as many students as possible the chance to complete their academic year as planned.
‘We believe that our approach will help ensure standards and currency of our students’ degree programmes and their preparedness for work and further studies. We have a very diverse student community and the current situation is impacting our students in very different ways.
‘We are listening to feedback and working closely with our students’ union to develop a range of measures to ensure flexibility for every student, specific to their circumstances. These include extensions for coursework and dissertations, allowing students to defer exams or retake exams if they feel that the outcome does not reflect their ability.’
A petition for Huddersfield University said the Covid-19 outbreak is ‘taking a massive toll on the lives of students’.
It adds: ‘Before the campus closed students were having to make the choice between their education or their health, and now many students are left without books, appropriate study spaces, and computer facilities.
‘Speaking not just from my own experience, but what I’ve been told by others too, a lot of students are finding it difficult to concentrate on their studies whilst working from home.
‘Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the physical lives and mental health of students, it is unfair to expect students to be able to effectively prepare for exams and assignments, or complete these to the best of their abilities.’
A university spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that we are working on the basis that no student should be disadvantaged because of the Covid-19 outbreak. We are supporting them to continue their studies, so they can complete their degrees in the usual timeframe and not be disadvantaged in the workplace once things stabilise and we return to more normal times.
‘We know that many students have family responsibilities, they may have varying degrees of access to IT, and that they, or family members may be key workers, or may indeed be unwell at the moment. For this reason, our student support and wellbeing staff have prepared emergency protocols to deal with individual circumstances and we would encourage any student with concerns to contact their personal academic.
A Sheffield Hallam spokesperson said: ‘Whilst we are taking action to ensure that studies can continue safely, we want to reassure students that the university is committed to no student being academically disadvantaged as a result.
‘We encourage students with concerns to talk to their course leaders and academic support advisors.’
They said students have been pointed to a help centre and wellbeing support service available to them online.