No need for ‘no detriment’ assessment policy, says Russell Group

More than 13,000 sign petition calling for blanket policy to protect students’ grades from impact of coronavirus pandemic

January 8, 2021
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Some of the UK’s most prestigious universities have rejected continuing “no detriment” policies designed to protect students’ grades from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some universities introduced “safety net” policies during the 2019-20 academic year, which, for example, might allow students’ degree classifications to be based on the grading of a smaller number of credits than usual.

More than 13,000 people have signed a petition calling for similar policies to be implemented this year, and a small number of institutions have already taken this step in response to the UK’s third Covid-19 lockdown, including, according to The Tab, Leeds Beckett University.

The petition, launched by University of Exeter undergraduate Bella Enoizi, claims that “students will intrinsically not receive the same standard of teaching this year”, highlighting issues such as technological problems with online tuition and asserting that “the sum of pre-recorded teaching is often less than our contact hours in previous years”.

In a joint statement, the Russell Group of 24 research-intensive universities said no detriment policies had been introduced by some institutions “as an emergency measure” at the end of the last academic year but that they would not be “necessary or appropriate” this year.

“In response to the pandemic, our universities have redesigned their learning, teaching and assessments for the 2020-21 academic year. They have put in place new teaching and learning plans and a range of support services so students can continue their academic study. They have also adapted assessment methods so students can demonstrate their knowledge and attainment of learning outcomes,” the statement said.

“Our universities are confident that the steps taken this year will ensure all students are given a fair grade.”

The Russell Group added that, “in many cases the use of such algorithms would not be possible given the scarcity of pre-pandemic benchmarking data available for many students”.

The statement added that universities would “continue to work to mitigate the impact of the pandemic this year” on students and would “of course be taking their individual circumstances into account – in line with current approaches taken in all our universities, but with an enhanced focus on the Covid impacts”.

“Our universities will continue to work in partnership with our students to review our approach to mitigation measures and make any necessary changes to ensure these are as effective, compassionate and empathetic as they can be, and that they recognise the challenges faced by all students and the exceptionally difficult circumstances that some students are facing this year,” the statement continued.

“At the same time, Russell Group universities have a duty to all students to protect academic standards and uphold the integrity of our degrees. This is critical to ensure that it remains possible to differentiate the overall performance of students and that the degrees of our graduating students are viewed as a mark of quality and continue to command the confidence of employers and professional bodies.”

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