All student e-mail - Tuesday 24 March, 2020

Dear UG and PGT Students,

Please read slowly and carefully.

In this communication, our aim is to provide you with as much information and reassurance as possible about our approach to the summer term examination period. Please remember, however, that staff have much work to do in order to provide you with an accurate answer about how this plan affects you as an individual. Every Programme is different. Remember, too, that although you may be on the same programme as your peers, you may have taken different optional modules with different assessment patterns, meaning we have more or less marks available for you resulting in different decisions. So, please be patient while we work out the detail.

We will communicate detailed information to every UG final year graduating cohorts, and PGT cohorts, by Friday 3 April.

For continuing students, as you will see below, the exam issues are not quite so important right now given the decisions we have taken to relieve immediate pressure, so you should continue to complete any outstanding coursework as directed by your School and we will communicate with you more generally after Easter.

Meanwhile, if all students could avoid emailing staff with individual requests at this time, we will get answers to everyone much more quickly.

NB: in some Colleges (notably medical-related in MDS) decisions may have already been taken about some programmes. If so, these will have been communicated to you and you can ignore the contents of this email.

What are we going to do about the summer exams, and why?

As promised in our last email, the Senior Education Team has been working tirelessly with staff across all your Schools/Departments, and with colleagues in other Universities that are similar to us, to come up with viable solutions to the forthcoming summer assessment/examination period. As we do this, the national (and global) picture is evolving fast and, like most of you, we have been trying to keep pace with the new information that emerges each day. We have also been listening to the numerous student concerns and those of our staff.

As you will all appreciate, we have to balance numerous factors in deciding what to do about the examination period in May/June, and we recognise that it is probably impossible to fully satisfy everyone in this emergency situation. We are acutely aware that in attempting to undertake examinations and assessments remotely, there are a wide range of issues for students to overcome with some students better equipped than others with Wi-Fi, study space at home and access to reliable devices. Added to this, students, staff, families and friends will face growing pressures as the infection rate increases over the coming weeks and in working through the various options available, this has been our overriding consideration. We are also aware that some students want to make themselves available for work or volunteering as soon as possible to help address the crisis.

We have now taken the following high level decisions about progress and graduation based on the latest information on the Coronavirus crisis, and the expectation that the April-June period will be particularly challenging. NOTE: Senate has granted us the emergency powers we need to put in place these changes.

We have taken the following decisions, and we are now working through the detail. Once again, I have to ask you for your patience. I have promised throughout that we would provide you with further information as soon as we are sure it is the correct information, and we will continue to do that.

1. Information for Undergraduate students who are due to graduate this summer

  • We are going to attempt to graduate as many UG students as possible without the need for you to do examinations in the summer exam period. We can only do this if we can evidence that across your whole period of study with us, you have met the overall Programme Learning Outcomes.
  • Programme Learning Outcomes are very broad outcomes that are usually met in different ways across multiple modules. In this emergency situation, we can check that we have enough evidence to satisfy an Examination Board that the outcomes have been met overall. Staff will be checking this Programme by Programme and student by student. Senate has granted us the powers to take the actions required in this emergency situation.
  • So, for all graduating students, we will be able to take into account the previous years’ learning experiences and marks, any coursework marks for this final year (including those still outstanding in some programmes) from both semesters and – importantly - the dissertation/project marks.
  • It is important to recognise that each Programme and set of module options is different, so we will undoubtedly have to exercise some discretion where students on the same Programme have taken different options, but we will do everything possible to ensure that every student is treated fairly and no one is disadvantaged simply because of option choices.
  • For those few programmes that are assessed by 100% coursework with no exams scheduled for the summer period, we will also be reducing the pressures on students.
  • The rationale for the approach we are taking is that we already have a significant amount of information on our final year students by this stage of their programmes, so we want to minimise unnecessary pressure by asking for more evidence at this difficult time.
  • Over the coming days, staff will be looking at the marks that we will have available for every final year student on each Programme and, to ensure the integrity of your degrees, mapping teaching experiences and marks against each Programme Learning Outcome to ensure there are no gaps. We will then be in a position – by 3 April at the latest - to announce which students are covered by this decision and can be graduated in the summer without needing to do any further assessments in the exam period.

In those Programmes where we have insufficient evidence available to graduate students because we don’t yet have evidence that all the Programme Learning Outcomes have been met, we will be setting some coursework or short tests as appropriate to the nature of the discipline. NOTE: we will not ask you to do anything unfamiliar and our aim is to give you the best possible opportunities to be successful. Note also that any revision that you may have been doing will not be wasted. For example:

    • Where relevant and appropriate, one or more pieces of online coursework will be the replacement for any remaining exams. We will keep these to a minimum, and they will be adapted from the original examination format that you were expecting. Your programme leads are now working with your School/Department Head of Education and College Director of Education to provide further clarity. We will be allowing as much flexibility as possible in the time period over which this can be completed in order for students to graduate on time, and we will offer some online tutor support to ensure you are prepared for the approach. In other words, because we can’t run exams in the traditional sense, we are setting some coursework that covers material with which you will already be familiar from participating in the modules and preparing for the exams. We will then have the evidence we need to progress you through the Examination Board.
    • In technical/numerical disciplines, the coursework may include time-limited online ‘competency’ tests which will be discussed with Professional Bodies where relevant to meet particular learning outcomes. There will multiple opportunities to take these tests and they will be marked pass/fail. If students are unable to access these tests, other formats will be made available.
    • For students on professional programmes, such as those relating to the medical, teaching or social work programmes, we are following advice from your regulatory bodies and your programme team will be in regular contact with you concerning the next steps. This is very specific to each profession, so your Programme teams will be able to clarify once the Professional Bodies have agreed the best ways forward. In the case of students in health-related professions, work is well advanced on plans to ensure they are available to enter the workforce immediately (see your local comms).
    • We will be putting in place appropriate comparable arrangements for Joint Honours and LANS students.
  • We will be able to award degree classifications, although it is recognised that some marks will be missing on students’ transcripts. Importantly, however, the entire national (and global) Graduating Cohort of 2020 is unique given the circumstances in which they have graduated. In awarding classifications, we will do everything possible to give everyone the maximum opportunity to be successful in the circumstances in which we all find ourselves.

2. Information for non-finalist Undergraduate students who will be returning to study in the 2020-21 academic year

  • For returning UG students (including those on the 4 Year MSci/MEng), we are going to cancel all exams scheduled in the summer period. We do require you to complete outstanding coursework assessments for individual modules and you will need to refer to the most recent local information from your programmes about deadlines and any extensions or alternative arrangements.
  • PLEASE NOTE: In order to progress to the next year of study, we will be asking you to engage with a single piece of over-arching coursework that will act as an important bridge from this year to next, so that you are fully ready to progress.
  • We will provide detail on this piece of bridging coursework after Easter. You will simply be required to engage with it at some point before the next academic year, and engagement will count as a ‘pass’. This will help to put you in the best possible position to succeed in your future studies. Our aim is to make this exercise as interesting and engaging for you as possible and we will be very flexible about when you do it (any time before the next academic year).
  • ALSO NOTE: staff will be working hard across the summer to modify the modules you will encounter in Semester One to take account of the lost assessments this academic year. We will also be doing this for incoming first year students who will not have completed their A Levels (or equivalent).
  • Senate has granted us the powers to take the actions required in this emergency situation.

3. Information for PGT students

  • Where we have sufficient evidence that students have met the expected Programme Learning Outcomes at this stage of the programme (i.e. including all outstanding coursework marks from this semester, minus the dissertation/project), we will cancel all exams scheduled for the summer period. Senate has granted us the powers to take the actions required in this emergency situation.
  • Programme Learning Outcomes are very broad outcomes that are usually met in different ways across multiple modules. In this emergency situation, we can check that we have enough evidence to satisfy an Examination Board that the outcomes have been met for this stage of study. Staff will be checking this for you and mapping your teaching experiences and any existing assessments against the Learning Outcomes for your programme.
  • In those Programmes where we have insufficient marks available and the Programme Learning Outcomes have not been met for this stage of your programme, we will be setting some coursework or short tests as appropriate to the nature of the discipline. NOTE: we will not ask you to do anything unfamiliar and the revision that you may have been doing will not be wasted.
    • Where relevant and appropriate, one or more pieces of online coursework will be the replacement for any remaining exams. We will keep these to a minimum, and they will be adapted from the original examination format that you were expecting. Your programme leads are now working with your School/Department Head of Education and College Director of Education to provide further clarity. In other words, because we can’t run exams in the traditional sense, we are setting some coursework that covers material with which you will already be familiar from participating in the modules and preparing for the exams. We will then have the evidence we need to progress you through the Examination Board in October.
    • In technical/numerical disciplines, the coursework may include time-limited online ‘competency’ tests which will be discussed with Professional Bodies where relevant for particular learning outcomes. There will multiple opportunities to take these tests and they will be marked pass/fail. If students are unable to access these tests, other formats will be made available.
    • For students on professional programmes, such as those relating to the medical, teaching or social work programmes, we are following advice from your regulatory bodies and your programme team will be in regular contact with you concerning the next steps. This is very specific to each profession, so your Programme teams will be able to clarify once the Professional Bodies have agreed the best ways forward. In the case of students in health-related professions, work is well advanced on plans to ensure they are available to enter the workforce immediately (see your local comms).
    • We want to ensure PGT students – where possible – can focus on their projects/dissertations with online support from their tutors. We are already modifying these projects/dissertations in numerous ways to take account of this emergency situation, and we will also reduce the word count in some cases to take account of the changed nature of these pieces of work.
    • Programme teams will communicate with you by Friday 3 April so you know how this applies to you as an individual.
  • We will consider whether it is feasible to classify MSc degrees at a later date and in conjunction with the wider national sector. Clearly, the entire national (and global) Graduating Cohort of 2020 will be unique given the circumstances in which they have graduated.

In summary

We feel that these arrangements strike the best possible balance between recognising the crisis in which we find ourselves, upholding the standards of your degree, and supporting you to be as well prepared for the future as you can be in these testing times.

I know you will be seeking more answers about some of the detail in this email. I can only assure you that as soon as we know, you will know. Please refrain from emailing academic staff individually over the next two weeks because this takes them away from the important task of getting the correct information ready for you.

At this stage, there is no certainty about the future. We cannot be sure that the next academic year won’t also be disrupted in some way. We have taken these decisions to act in the best interests of students so they can graduate and progress, while recognising the unprecedented challenges facing us all.

Please look out for further local communications from your academic School/Department and programme leads. It’s also essential that you remember the pressure staff are under, and give them the time and space to do the work they need to do to allow you to progress.

With best wishes from:
Professor Kathy Armour (PVC Education)
Dr Emma Robinson (Interim Academic Registrar)
Professor Jon Green (DPVC Education)
Dr Celia Greenway (DPVC Student Academic Engagement)
Dr John Curnow (DoE MDS)
Professor Elaine Fulton (DoE CAL)
Professor Catherine Mangan (DoE CoSS)
Professor Jeremy Pritchard (DoE LES)
Professor Nicola Wilkin (DoE EPS)
Dr Andy Hodder (PGT Lead, Graduate School)

Visit the Your Studies page

Colleges

Professional Services