Message for students: Our Commitment to Your Success and the Integrity of Your Degree - 15 January 2021
Your no-disadvantage guarantee
We are committed to enabling you to succeed, and to the lasting value of your University of Exeter degree, and we understand that that you have concerns about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on your ability to engage with education and achieve the outcomes that you deserve. The University, Students’ Guild in Exeter and Students’ Union in Cornwall have been working in partnership, involving committed student representatives, to ensure that you are not disadvantaged as a result of the many impacts of the pandemic.
Our commitment to you is that overall marks this year will be fair, compared with those achieved by previous year groups including those not impacted by the pandemic and that, because we are protecting the integrity of your degree by maintaining our high academic standards, you will be well-placed to compete in the employment market on an equal footing with other graduates, from this year and any other year. This is your no-disadvantage guarantee.
In consultation with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union and student representatives we have developed 3 safety nets:
- For whole cohorts, we have agreed with the senior leadership group of the University that exam boards (Assessment, Progress and Awarding Committees (APACs)) in each department will take a consistent approach and will compare average marks, and the distribution of marks, achieved by each year group this year with the equivalent marks from previous years. They will then apply appropriate adjustments to correct any significant deviation.
This safety net means that your year group will suffer no detriment when compared to those who came before you, and those who will follow.
- We also have a lot of additional specific support to ensure that every individual student can also achieve their full potential. We know that some students will have personal circumstances that mean they require additional support. We will support you through a range of measures which, together, create a safety-net for individual students. These include:
- The option to apply for mitigation, enabling you to defer assessments, without the need to provide evidence. Details of our mitigation policy, including how to apply, are available online, and we would encourage you to discuss with your tutor, friends or family before deciding to defer an assessment.
- The revision of our policies on appeals to reduce the burden of evidence required.
- Further empowering departmental exam boards to take decisions and make adjustments - where justified - to account for the circumstances of individual students, recognising the particular challenges of this year.
It is vitally important we know about any challenges you are facing, so that we can support you. We therefore strongly encourage you to stay in touch with your personal tutor, who can help you to get the support you need. The advice services of the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union are also able to advise you on the options available to you.
- For finalists and taught postgraduate students entering the job market or applying for further study, we are providing further assurance concerning classification through an additional safety-net addressing feedback from the campaign group and Guild/SU Officers. We commit to expanding our definition of the ‘borderline zone’ and ensure that all students who are close to a degree class border are considered in detail. This is effective because exam boards (APACs) have authority to award to each student in this borderline zone a higher class of degree where at least half the student’s weighted credits lie in the higher class. This measure encourages you to continue to aim high in all of your modules, while recognising and mitigating the risk posed by potential variability in academic performance under the current exceptional circumstances.
We will share more details of the arrangements in place and the support available soon; this will include specific details on how we will define borderline zones as described above. We will also work with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union to simplify and clarify the academic and personal support available to you, and to ensure that we communicate this support regularly so that everyone who needs it can access it.
The officers and representatives of the Students’ Guild in Exeter and the Students’ Union in Cornwall have worked closely with us on these matters, and many more students joined our working party to consider our approach to mitigation and the appeals process. This group continues to meet, to consider feedback from students and representatives and review proposals for further interventions. We are committed to continuing this co-creation of our approach with our students.
And a final thank you to you. We are inspired and humbled by your resilience and the way you have responded to the many challenges this year. We will continue to communicate the support in place for you as you study. Please continue to work with us to make this the best year it can be and let us know how we can help and support you – the best way to do this is by talking to your Students’ Guild and Students’ Union student representatives (SSLC members), who are pivotal in representing your views to the University.
You can be confident of our commitment to your education, and to ensuring the enduring quality of your Exeter degree. We wish you every success, and we will support you every step of the way.
Professor Tim Quine
Professor Rob Freathy