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10:40am on Tuesday, 11th May, 2021:

No Detriment


The university has a "no detriment" policy regarding assessments for the academic year 2020/2021. This is because of the pandemic, of course. There are three "safety nets" in place, as follows:

Safety Net #1 (helping progression)
If you fail a module, you'll automatically be offered a chance at reassessment, free of charge. Reassessment will be uncapped, so you can still obtain high marks, and it won't count as one of the three attempts at an assessment you normally get.

This seems fair enough to me, although it does look as if students who pass by a tiny margin will be in a worse position than if they'd failed by the same margin.

Safety Net #2 (addressing failure)
The Examination Boards will automatically take into account the effects of the pandemic when looking at marks. However, if you haven't done as well as you could have done because of circumstances beyond your control, you can fill in an Extenuating Circumstances form. You don't need to submit any evidence to support your claim.

This looks a little alarming on the face of it, because it effectively lets students re-do assessments at will. I don't know what happens if the reassessment mark is lower than the original one, but I suspect that the higher mark would stand. This would mean that personal life aside, there's no reason for students not to hand in an Extenuating Circumstances form, thereby gaining a shot at obtaining better marks. I guess the rationale behind Safety Net #2 is to address the point I raised about Safety Net #1, so people who scrape a pass aren't worse off than people who only just miss out on one. It could mean a lot of reassessments for us to mark over the summer, though.

Safety Net #3 (comparison)
Marks for each module will be compared with marks for the previous three years to make sure they're in line. If they're not, then actions will be considered to make sure the students aren't disadvantaged.

Basically, this means they'll scale marks if they're lower than they typically are for the module, but they'll leave well alone if they're higher. For larger modules, this makes sense; for modules with only a small number of students, though, it doesn't. A module with only four students on it could conceivably have all of them weak or all of them strong. Comparing a weak year to a previous strong year would be giving a false impression of the students' abilities.

I expect the overall effect of these three Safety Nets to be that our students will perform splendidly this year, and the university's target of having 60% of undergraduates score 60% or more in their assessments will easily be met.

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