Fair Assessments and Fair Outcomes: PGT

A Package of Measures and Mitigations for Postgraduate Taught Students to Address Covid-related Disruption in 2020-21

 

15 January 2021

As noted in our recent communication, the most effective way to approach the next few months is for staff and students to continue to work together so we can assess, progress and graduate students in fair and appropriate ways. Furthermore, as noted in the recent Russell Group Universities’ joint statement, we are required to balance two things in every decision we take: the ambition to ensure students are not disadvantaged despite the Covid challenges you have faced, and the imperative to ensure the value of your degree can never be questioned by an employer or professional accrediting body in the future. This is a difficult balancing act under the current circumstances, but staff will be doing everything possible to help you to secure the best possible outcome.

What follows is a package of measures to mitigate for the Covid disruption in 2020-21. This package constitutes the University’s Policy for Fair Assessment and Fair Outcomes for Postgraduate Students for this academic year. Please note, these measures apply specifically to this academic year and if disruption continues into the next academic year, we will need to devise a new package of measures appropriate to the circumstances and to recognise the cumulative impacts. There is separate information available for UG, Study Abroad and Year in Industry students.

This policy is in three parts: measures and mitigations applying to all postgraduate taught students, and mitigations specific to graduating cohorts and continuing students. We have consulted with the Guild on this package and we would like to thank them for their input to the decision-making process. We also note the constructive comments made by the joint Russell Group Student Union response and can confirm that our policy supports much of what they have requested.

Note: please remember that your tutors are also facing personal and professional disruption as a result of the pandemic. Many (like some of you) will be home-schooling. Staff will nonetheless do everything possible to return marks and assessed work as planned. Obviously if there are significant numbers of extensions, this will also have an impact on the time set aside for marking and therefore the return of marks.  Schools will communicate with you if there are likely to be any delays but it’s important that we recognise the additional pressures on both students and staff.

1. Measures and mitigations applying to all postgraduate taught students

  • All assessments were already designed and scheduled to be taken online, in anticipation of the potential for Covid-related disruption. Mitigations are, therefore, already in place in terms of the structure and content of assessments and the forms of/deadlines for submission. These mitigations vary depending on the subject, type of programme and whether there are specific professional body requirements.
  • Given the additional challenges this year, it is confirmed that students are not required to produce external evidence to support their requests for extensions or extenuating circumstances if it is impossible to provide that evidence. Instead, students are asked to provide sufficient information about their circumstances in order to self-certify the request they are making. This allows us to consider each case at Exam Boards. This policy has been in place since the beginning of the Semester One assessment period, as noted in our communication sent out on Friday 8th January. Note also that an online form is being developed to make it easier for students to submit requests, and we will communicate again next week as soon as this form is live.
  • For any students who are expecting to take a major project or dissertation that would normally require lab access or in-person data collection, Covid-adapted project pathways have already been put in place (where required) to ensure you can still complete an appropriate project and graduate successfully.
  • Although the Government is seeking to dramatically reduce the number of people on campus, they have made an exemption for students who need access to study spaces, WiFi or specialist equipment in order to complete assessments. Note: as noted in the first comms last week, it is essential this exemption is reserved for those students who really need it because if students are on campus unnecessarily, this exemption is likely to come under pressure. You can read the latest Government guidance here.
  • Regular (usually weekly) online group tutorials were introduced for all taught students for the first time this academic year in anticipation of further Covid disruption. The aim was to ensure each student had quick and regular access to a tutor and a small group of peers. This is a forum in which you can discuss any concerns you might have and these will then be raised with your Department or School.
  • Your Student Reps continue to work closely with your Schools and Departments to ensure that any issues raised are addressed and you should ensure that you know your local Reps. Remember, your Reps are also able to escalate issues to the Guild who have a remit to work with the University on your behalf. In addition, we introduced wider Student Reference Groups in Schools and Departments to help us to work collaboratively in navigating the challenges we are all facing this year.

Note: If students wish to request a deferral of any assessments, they are required to submit their reasons. Deferred assessments will be scheduled for the Supplementary Period in August and they will take the same format as the original assessments. Note also that mitigations may need to be tailored to ensure students meet the requirements of their degree accrediting bodies, but these adaptations will be communicated locally. 

In addition to these general measures, there are specific mitigations that apply to different cohorts of students.

2. Mitigations applying to PGT Graduating Cohorts 2020-21

Mitigations already in place for the final examination boards at the end of this academic year:

  • The total marks profile of each individual student will be considered. This mitigation was introduced last year. Under normal circumstances this is only required in borderline cases or EC considerations.  Note: We must be able to demonstrate that each student has met their programme learning outcomes and gained any core competencies required for professional accreditation.
  • The impact of mitigating circumstances will be considered as usual, but whereas students are required to submit a case, external evidence is not required to support that case if it is unavailable; instead, students are asked to ‘self-certify’.
  • Part-time PGT students now in their final year will have their degrees calculated as follows:
    • In 2019/20, PT PGT students were permitted to progress if they had achieved two thirds of their taught credits for that year of study. Where students did not have the opportunity to achieve two thirds of their taught credits, they were able to do so by taking additional assessments during 2020/21.
    • The number of credits taken by PT PGT students each year varies. In 2019/20, the majority of PGT students will have had the opportunity to attempt at least 40 out of the 60 credits normally attempted by a PT student during a single academic session. Students who attempted fewer than 40 credits in 2019/20 will normally have gained additional credits in previous academic sessions, or will be doing so during 2020/21. By the time they complete their programme in 2020/21, the majority of students will therefore have attempted at least 100 credits out of a total of 120 taught credits.
    • In recognition of this, the degree classification for PT PGT students graduating in 2020/21 will be calculated using the total number of credits students have attempted, subject to a minimum of 160 credits (100 taught credits plus the 60 credit dissertation/project).
    • If students have attempted fewer than 100 taught credits, the degree may still be awarded ‘Notwithstanding Regulations’, if appropriate.  These credit requirements will be pro-rated for PGCerts and PGDips.

The impact of extenuating circumstances (ECs) will be considered as usual at Exam Boards but note whereas students are required to submit their reasons for requesting ECs and extensions as usual, and as much evidence as possible should be supplied, we have put in place a process of self-certification so external supporting evidence is not required if it cannot be obtained.

Note: If students wish to request a deferral of any assessments, they are also required to submit their reasons and supporting evidence if possible. Deferred assessments will be scheduled for the Supplementary Period in August and they will take the same format as the original assessments. 

New mitigations for 2020-21

  • For the whole cohort: We will compare the marks achieved by this year’s graduating cohort with that of last year’s cohort to ensure you are not disadvantaged. If we find a variation beyond the normal variation between years, we are able to scale marks accordingly at the summer exam boards. In order to do this we would need the support of our External Examiners and in each programme we have to be certain we are in alignment with the requirements of individual professional bodies.
  • We will make the following mitigations where possible but please note this cannot apply to specific professional requirements that are determined by the University of Birmingham and/or professional bodies.
  • For the whole cohort:
    • For PG Certificate students: we will remove the requirement to have achieved a mark of 40 or more in at least 60 credits
    • For PG Diploma students: we will remove the requirement to have achieved a mark of 40 or more in at least 120 credits
    • For Taught PG Degree students: we will remove the requirement to have achieved a mark of 40 or more in all taught modules
  • For the whole cohort: we will remove the requirement to pass all taught modules to be awarded a degree with Merit or Distinction. This means that Registered Students shall be eligible for the Award of Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diplomas and Taught Postgraduate Degrees with Merit or Distinction subject to meeting the following requirements:

Pass

Merit

Distinction

Postgraduate Certificate

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 40 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • have gained a weighted mean mark of at least 50 in the 60 credits considered for the award.

Postgraduate Certificate

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 40 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 60 in the 60 credits considered for the award.

 

Postgraduate Certificate

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 40 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 70 in the 60 credits considered for the award.

 

Postgraduate Diploma

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • have gained a weighted mean mark of at least 50 in the 120 credits considered for the award.

Postgraduate Diploma

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 60 in the 120 credits considered for the award.

 

Postgraduate Diploma

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the programme and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 70 in the 120 credits considered for the award.

 

Postgraduate Masters degree

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the taught component of the programme, and
  • have gained credit in dissertation components with a total credit value of 60 credits at level M taken during the course of the programme and
  • have gained a weighted mean mark of at least 50 in the taught component of the programme.

Postgraduate Masters degree

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the taught component of the programme, and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 55 in the taught components; and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 55 in the dissertation component at level M; and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 60 calculated across all modules.

 

Postgraduate Masters degree

A Registered Student must:

 

  • have gained at least 80 credits at Level M in modules taken as part of the taught component of the programme, and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 65 in the taught components; and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 65 in the dissertation component at level M; and
  • achieve a weighted mean mark of at least 70 calculated across all modules.

3. Mitigations for Continuing (i.e. part time) PGT students

For continuing part time PGT students, the advice remains to submit as many assessments as possible. We cannot predict the future trajectory of the pandemic so, for those in the first year of a part time programme, it is important to build up your profile of marks over time so that we are able to consider you for your award in the future. For part-time students in ‘intermediate’ years of a part time programme (for example year two of a three year programme), the marks you take forward from each year relate to the regulations in place at the time. We will ensure the regulations in place in each year of your study will be taken into account at final award boards when calculating your degree. Your School/programme team will be able to advise you of your position in light of the current regulations.

Note, we will issue further guidance on examination boards relevant to your year of graduation in future years. In each case, we will take account of the circumstances in which you have completed modules in previous years.

 

 

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