Queen Mary has outlined a ‘Covid Mitigating Measures Policy’ in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Included in the policy is:
- All extension requests for assessments can be self-certified by students
- There is no limit to the number of extension requests students can make
- The borderline classification zone of consideration has been expanded from 1% to 1.5% for 2020-21 finalists, allowing a 1.5% leeway to achieve a higher degree classification
- Where a student does not submit work by the deadline (original or extended), the late work penalty will apply but can be waived if the student provides a valid Extenuating Circumstances claim (E.C.)
- What classifies as E.C. has been expanded to include “circumstances outside a student’s control arising from the long-term effects of the pandemic”
The document also promises that faculty examination boards will consider the results of ‘pre-Covid cohorts’ and, if there is any unaccounted-for variation, restorative measures such as grade scaling (where all everyone’s marks are positively adjusted by a percentage) may be implemented.
The proposals result from discussions between the University and the Students Union and will last for the remainder of the academic year.
The policy intends to account for the massive disruption students have experienced due to coronavirus, with most courses forced entirely online and the campus library operating at reduced hours. Many students are not attending university in-person at all and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 60% of UK students have not returned to university since Christmas. Queen Mary in particular already has a notoriously high proportion of commuter students, with figures from 2018 showing 37% of the student population commute from home.
Student mental health has also suffered, with the ONS reporting that 63% of students thought their wellbeing and mental health had worsened since the start of the autumn 2020 term.
Other institutions are taking similar steps to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. UCL recently promised final year students can secure a first-class degree with an average mark as low as 67.5%; so long as they have module marks of at least 70.00% in at least half of their Final Year credits.
However, students will not see a ‘no-detriment’ policy implemented akin to last year, in which every student’s worst 30 credits were not considered in the calculation of their final mark. No doubt this hesitation results from last year’s record number of first-class degrees, where one in three (35%) UK students achieved the coveted highest classification due to ‘no-detriment’ measures.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said: “I think we are already seeing the pushback with more reluctance to impose no detriment policies this year.
“Institutions are worried about the political storms ahead on this as politicians are never keener to tread on universities’ autonomy than on the number of firsts.”
The Office for Students, the universities regulator, has previously warned universities could be fined or even struck off the official register if they fail to tackle grade inflation.
QM’s mitigating measures policy can be read in full here: http://www.arcs.qmul.ac.uk/students/study/covid-mitigating-measures/
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