We want to ensure that you are supported to succeed despite the extraordinary events of this academic year, which we understand has been especially challenging. You have adapted brilliantly to new ways of learning and assessment, though we know you may have struggled – but the impact of the pandemic is apparent for us all.
In supporting you, we need to ensure that the quality of our awards is maintained and standards are upheld, as recognised by employers, professional bodies and other institutions. This is vital for your future employability.
Steps we have taken to date
Based on student feedback and with support and strong encouragements from the Students’ Union Executive team, we have already taken a number of steps to help and support students throughout the year, including:
- Updating our Mitigating Circumstances Policy to cover technology failure, and allow self-certification of illness for up to seven days for missed classes.
- Making many of our assessments inclusive by design (where regulatory or accreditation requirements allow) so that they are accessible to all, regardless of location or disability.
- Updating our Procedures for Protecting the Interests of Students, which outline the actions to be taken by the University when an exceptional event disrupts normal academic processes and procedures, to cover the current pandemic situation.
- Ensuring that study spaces remain accessible on-campus, for those students who need to be here.
Whilst these steps have helped many students already, we recognise that you need to understand what additional measures will be in place, to reassure you that you will not be disadvantaged in your assessments as a consequence of the pandemic.
We are therefore making a five-point Assessment Pledge to all of our taught students for the remainder of the 2020/21 academic year:
Our Assessment Pledge 2020-21
- Automatic extension
You can choose to have an automatic extension of up to seven days, for up to two individual assignments or pieces of coursework in the remainder of this academic year. This allows you to choose how to best resolve any challenges arising from deadlines ‘bunching up’. You just need to notify your School or Programme Team in advance of the original deadline, if you wish to do this. This also applies to dissertations, but not to any examinations. These automatic extensions are available in addition to any extensions you may be granted separately, for example via mitigating circumstances or through the Disability Advisory and Support Service (DASS).
- Simplifying mitigating circumstances
We will remove the requirement to provide medical evidence for mitigating circumstances applications (COVID related, or otherwise). Whilst this simplifies the mitigating circumstances procedure, you should still seek help for any medical or mental health concerns. We strongly encourage you to give as much detail as you can in your application, so we can ensure you are offered appropriate support; and to speak to an appropriate member of staff in your School or elsewhere in the University.
- Moderation in-line with previous years
University-wide, we are introducing robust ways of identifying whether the marks for your whole year cohort are out of line with those from prior (non-COVID) years. Exam boards will review and, where appropriate, marks will be scaled to bring them more in-line with previous years’ results. We’ll also identify cases where your individual marks may be out of line with your achievements in this and previous years of your programme and discuss this further with you, to explore whether there may be mitigating circumstances.
- Regulation changes
Every year we look carefully at students who have just missed out on a higher classification. So, for example, if your average mark was between 68% and 70%, we would look further at the profile of your marks to consider whether or not you should be awarded a first or a distinction (and the same at other boundaries). This year, we’re extending the ‘boundary zones’ by 1%, so that we will consider the higher classification for any student with 67% or above for a first/distinction and 57% for 2.1/merit, etc. In addition, for PGT students, you can’t currently get a distinction if you have a re-sit or compensated mark, but we will remove that barrier this year wherever we can (subject to regulatory and professional body accreditation requirements).
- Waiving of re-sit fees
If you need to take any re-sits, we won’t charge you a fee to take any of them and we will help you through them.
Our assessment, moderation and marking processes are well established and robust, and have many layers of checks, which are designed to support you to succeed and protect the academic standards, and hence external recognition, of your degree. For our internal University exams, all processes are reviewed by External Examiners appointed by the University. These Examiners come from different institutions to ensure that marks being awarded by the University are not out of line with those awarded in other UK institutions. These External Examiners also ensure that any adjustments being made by the University to mitigate the impact of the pandemic do not disadvantage you in comparison to students in other parts of the University, or at other institutions.
You can learn more about how this process works in this video:
Support for your upcoming online assessments
Don’t forget that we have updated exam and assessment FAQs to include information on what to do if you are unable to take your assessment due to illness, or technology issues.
There is also information on our support provision for online assessments including in the evenings and at weekends, so you can rest assured that there is someone to contact should you experience any technical difficulties.
Professor April McMahon
Vice-President for Teaching, Learning and Students
Education Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union
Postgraduate Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union