It is now two weeks since the University, following Government advice, suspended all face to face teaching and closed our non-essential campus facilities in order to protect the health of all of our staff and students.
These are uncharted waters for us all and I have greatly admired the patience and resilience of staff and students alike as we have made the rapid transition to new ways of working and studying. We have seen some very exciting engagements with online teaching and learning, which will also help us develop blended learning for the future.
‘No disadvantage’ assessment policy – an update
In my email of 27 March I let you know that we will be taking a ‘no disadvantage’ approach for all assessments that replace on-campus exams this summer. This is just one of the supportive arrangements that we have introduced since suspension of on-campus teaching. All these arrangements are aimed at helping you progress with your studies without worrying that achievements that you have already made will be negatively affected by the difficult conditions under which you are working.
Alongside your wellbeing, our priority is for you to earn a qualification that is of high quality and valued by employers and, for certain programmes, in line with the standards and requirements of external accrediting bodies. For our externally regulated programmes, we continue to engage with accreditors regarding the finer details of their expectations and to inform them of the changes we are making. Your programme team will have been keeping you informed of amendments to teaching and assessment for your programme of study and will continue to do so on an ongoing basis if further changes are made.
We are now also able to provide some further details about the way the ‘no disadvantage’ approach will work for you. Subject to exceptions because your degree may be accredited by a professional body, and if this applies to your programme, we will tell you. Otherwise:
- First year and internal Foundation Year students will progress automatically to your next year of study – though we will provide learning and assessment opportunities after Easter. There will however be formative assessment opportunities (which means the marks won’t count, but you will get helpful feedback). We strongly encourage you to take part, because this will help your confidence and support you in preparing for next year. If your marks show you might not normally have progressed, you will have one-to-one advice to talk through your options.
- In the Faculty of Science and Engineering, the no-disadvantage policy will apply to any summer assessments which replace scheduled exams. In most cases you will not require further summer assessments, because you have already accumulated enough marks to progress or successfully complete your award.
- In the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, the no-disadvantage policy will apply to those programmes where decisions have been taken to replace scheduled on-campus summer exams with alternative assessments. This and all other changes to assessments may be subject to the approval of programme specific regulators and so your programme team will keep you informed if this is the case.
- In the Faculty of Humanities, the no-disadvantage policy will apply to any summer assessments which replace scheduled exams, but will also cover all assessments submitted during Semester 2, including all coursework, dissertations and projects.
- All students taking UCIL units should complete Semester 2 coursework assessments. No summer examinations will take place. The no disadvantage policy will then be applied by schools as agreed within the Faculty.
Accessing online learning
I know from feedback that some students have found the switch to online learning a challenge, for a variety of reasons. This is not perhaps surprising and a number of you have contacted your School, the IT Support Centre or the Students’ Union as issues have arisen.
To enhance this support and to make sure we can prioritise appropriately, we are introducing a single email address that you can contact for advice and support with engaging and accessing online learning and assessment: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can also call +44 (0) 161 306 6199 (Monday to Friday during UK Office hours). There is an experienced team waiting to help you.
We know that a number of students have started to struggle financially because of a sudden change of circumstances (e.g. through the loss of part time work). We want as many students as possible to be able to continue with their studies and so from today, we are widening access to our student hardship fund and making it easier to make an application.
The fund, which can award both small grants and loans, is now open to all students, regardless of mode of study or nationality. Further details can be found here or by emailing email@example.com.
Support and wellbeing
Although most of our doors are physically closed, it doesn’t mean we aren’t open. Our student support services remain available (e.g. School Support Offices, Counselling, Disability and Advisory Support Service, Occupational Health and Careers Service), with most appointments moved to telephone or video consultations. You can find full details on our student support microsite, and I would encourage you to ask for support if you think you would benefit from it.
Your School is working closely with the Disability Advisory and Support Service to ensure that students with additional needs receive the support you require for the assessments which replace on-campus exams. You will soon receive specific details about the format of these assessments, which will include information about the inclusive approach we are taking to their design and how you can access advice about any further adjustments you might need.
Finally, Michelle Donelan MP, the Minister of State for Universities has asked us to send you an open letter to all university students, which you can read here.
I hope that the above measures will provide some further reassurance to you, but above all I else I hope that you continue to remain safe and well. Take care of yourselves, and please do ask for help and support if you need it, we are here for you.
With best wishes,
Professor April McMahon
Vice President for Teaching, Learning and Students