Important update - End of Semester One assessment period

We are continuing to monitor closely the progress of the pandemic, the latest changes to Government guidance, and the most up-to-date information from Public Health England. At each stage, we use the best available information to take decisions about impacts on our students and their education. This communication contains important information about the end of Semester One assessment period.

As you will be aware, our teaching year consists of two semesters and, from this academic year, all students will have a formal assessment period at the end of each semester (previously, this was only available to some students). This means all students are now assessed close to the relevant teaching, and will receive useful feedback on progress half way through the year (instead of having to wait until the end of the year). The dates for the end of Semester One assessment period are from the 9th-23rd January, 2021. This communication relates only to those students who are expecting to take exams on campus in this period.  

Taking into account all the available evidence, we have concluded that it is highly unlikely we will be able to schedule a large number of traditional on-campus examinations in January. It seems likely that, at the very least, the current restrictions on the use of campus spaces will still be in place and there may even be further restrictions. That being the case, we will be unable to schedule most examinations on campus in Covid-compliant ways.

We have, therefore, taken the decision to deliver most end of Semester One examinations online. By taking this decision now, we have allowed sufficient time for staff to redesign their assessments to ensure they are appropriate and accessible for the online environment. We will also ensure that you are fully informed about the types of assessment you will face, and the ways in which you can prepare in order to do your best. [Note, we will attempt to schedule some limited assessments on campus if possible – e.g. essential practicals and laboratories – and you will be informed by your School if this applies to you. We will also have alternatives available if required.]

It is also important to note that under the current ‘Tier’ system for Covid restrictions, Government guidance is that campuses will remain open. This means you will still be able to access the library and other study spaces during the assessment period if you would prefer to work on your assessments on campus. Obviously government guidance can change, but our intention is to continue to ensure campus remains open unless otherwise directed.

I would like to offer reassurance that your tutors are fully aware that all of you have been affected by recent Covid-related disruptions to your education. New UG students were unable to take A’ Levels, continuing students were unable to take some of their end of year assessments, and many PGT students missed elements of their UG Finals. We have already factored these issues into the design of our teaching this term, and we will also consider them as we design online assessments and prepare you to take them.

Looking ahead, there is some benefit to the challenges we now face. In March following lockdown, and even though we had to pivot to delivering online assessments very quickly, we had some positive feedback from students and staff. We were successful, for example, in ensuring assessments were available across different time-zones for our international students, and were resilient in the face of WiFi challenges. With more time to plan, staff are now focussed on designing authentic online assessments that align with the kinds of tasks that might be expected in future employment contexts. Of course, all online assessments must meet the essential conditions of academic integrity. In addition, students supported by our Reasonable Adjustment Procedures (RAPs) will continue to receive the support they need relevant to the specific method of online assessment. In the summer exam period we found that many RAPs were already built into the online assessment design.

We will be inviting further staff and student feedback on online assessments in February, 2021.  Meanwhile, your tutors are now redesigning your assessments and they will be providing you with further information and support as soon as it is available.


Prof Kathy Armour, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Education

26th October, 2020


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