IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ:
Our principles and policy for the summer assessment period - 25th March 2020
This is a long message but we do encourage you to read it all and discuss it with friends and family. The last few weeks have been difficult and unsettling for all our students, and we are aware that many of you are quite naturally worried about the prospect of sitting examinations and completing other assessments in the summer. In this message, we outline the University’s principles and policy for the summer assessment period, which have been discussed and agreed among the Education Executive including the Sabbatical Officers of the Students’ Guild in Exeter and the Students’ Union in Cornwall.
We have tried to explain both the decisions that we have come to and the rationale that lies behind them. This really is the most extraordinary time and there is no ready-made rulebook to rely on. Just about the only certainty at the moment is the uncertainty, and the knowledge that different people will be affected in very different ways over the next few months, not only by the vagaries of the epidemic but by the circumstances in which you are studying, living and caring. We cannot smooth out these effects, but we are trying to provide you with options to allow you to make the choices that best work for you.
Please do not rush to make choices now, because you have time to discuss with friends and family, and to see how circumstances change over the coming weeks and months, both personally and nationally. We will always do our best to help and to support you.
Please also bear with us as we may have to adapt our approach over this time to respond to events as they unfold. We will communicate these changes as clearly and openly as we can. The principles set out in this communication are the ones we will seek to adhere to through to the summer period but we also know we will need to be flexible and innovative to respond to the challenges posed.
Principles and policy
In working out how to organise the summer examination and assessment period this year, there are several factors we have considered:
- How to enable and encourage you to continue your studies until the end of the academic year.
- How to enable and encourage you to complete your assessments as planned wherever possible, so that you are well prepared for the next stage of your studies or, in the case of final-year undergraduates and Masters students, so that you can receive your degree on time.
- How to give you a chance to demonstrate what you have learned, bearing in mind that many students improve their overall mark as a result of summer examinations and assessments.
- How to ensure fairness for all students, especially in relation to Individual Learning Plans (ILPs).
- Perhaps most importantly, how to ensure that your work is assessed in a way which takes account of the extraordinary and challenging conditions in which you will be preparing for and taking these assessments.
- At the same time, we recognise that not everyone will be in a position to take assessments this summer, and we want to be as flexible as we can.
The assessment arrangements below apply for all colleges apart from the College of Medicine and Health in which clinicians play a part in education, and academic colleagues are now contributing to front-line support of the NHS, and where graduating students may soon be called on to support the fight against Covid-19. Under these circumstances, a bespoke solution will be found and the college will communicate directly with CMH students to explain the arrangements for their assessments by 3rd April.
All examinations will be replaced by open-book remote examinations or coursework assessments. Invigilation will not be possible.
The University has issued guidelines to departments on how summer examinations and assessments should be organised, but it is up to individual departments and colleges to decide the exact format, taking into account the nature of the modules and the most appropriate way to assess them. They will take one of three forms:
- An open-book non-invigilated paper that must be completed in a specified 24 hour period in your own time. There will be no fixed duration but the expectation is that the paper will take approximately the same length of time as the original planned examination (including adjustment for ILPs).
- An open-book non-invigilated paper that must be completed in a specified 24 hour period in your own time but with a fixed duration. The duration will be adjusted with respect to relevant ILPs.
- An alternative coursework assessment taken over a number of weeks. The form of coursework will be of a kind with which you are already familiar, and will be designed so as to be manageable given other time pressures, examinations and assessments.
For assessment types 1 and 2 above, the 24 hour period exists to allow all students to engage with the assessment no matter in which time zone you are living. To repeat, there is no expectation that these assessments should take longer than ‘normal’ examinations. We will endeavour to stick to the original examination timetable wherever possible; however, we are working to prevent anyone from having two examinations in one day and will have to make a number of adjustments. Please look out for notifications about this.
Departments are completing their plans for the summer examinations and assessments this week; these will then be checked for potential IT challenges, particularly in terms of the capacity of our virtual learning environment (ELE). Details of the assessments will be communicated to you from your department/college by the end of the day on Friday 3rd April. We are grateful for your patience while we work through these necessary preparations.
If the idea of taking a remote examination or coursework assessment presents a problem for you, for example because you do not have a computer or internet access at home, please contact us on 01392 725000 (international: +44 300 555 0225), or on firstname.lastname@example.org. We will work collaboratively with you to find a solution that works for you. (Please note that our telephone helpline is open Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm, and Saturdays 10am-6pm. The above email address is monitored Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.)
Deferrals, Mitigation and Extensions
We know that, notwithstanding the adjustments above, significant challenges will remain. Therefore, we are developing a simplified and accelerated mitigation process (we will send you the link by Friday 3rd April) through which you can apply for deferral of your assessments:
First, any student concerned about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on their ability to perform may ask to defer all of their remaining assessments for this academic year until either the next assessment window (later this summer) or to next academic year. No evidence will be required to support either request. This means you would be able to delay taking your examinations or coursework until conditions have improved. If you defer until later this summer, the form of the assessment would remain the same, e.g. an open-book remote examination, rather than an invigilated on-campus examination. If you defer until the next academic year, then the form of the assessment may revert back to its original form; however, we cannot predict that far ahead. We will endeavour to ensure that any student who attempts to complete assessments this summer, will be able to progress to the award (if they are a finalist or Masters student) or progress to the next stage (if they are a non-finalist). We would urge you to consider carefully before applying for a deferral, and to talk any such decision through with academic tutors and your family and friends. You can also seek support from the advice teams in the Students’ Guild (Exeter) and Students’ Union (Cornwall). In order to allow you to think this through carefully and in the light of what happens over the next few weeks, you have until Friday 1st May to make a request to defer all of your remaining assessments.
Second, any student can apply for a deferral for one or more assessments where short-lived circumstances impact on your ability to complete some assessments but not others. No evidence will be required.
Third, any student can apply for mitigation or deferral should you experience technical issues or IT failure during an examination.
Fourth, assessments due at the end of term 2 have already been adjusted or extensions given; however, if you are unable to submit those assessments on time, you should discuss this with your academic tutor and you can request an extension or deferral (no evidence will be required). We will grant extensions where we can. Where extensions are not possible or appropriate we will offer you a deferral to later this summer, or to the next academic year using the same principles as outlined above for the summer assessment period.
Our commitment to your success
Given the exceptional circumstances in which you are sitting these examinations and other assessments, we have decided to introduce a ‘safety net’ policy.
This ‘no-detriment’ approach is as follows: so long as you would qualify to progress/graduate based on your marks obtained this year (including those in the summer assessment period), then we will ensure that your final academic year average is the same as, or higher than, the average you have attained up to Sunday 15th March. Details about how your average to 15th March will be calculated will be provided in the FAQs on our website by the end of Friday 27th March.
If you achieve higher marks in assessments submitted and examinations undertaken after Sunday 15th March then you will be able to raise your mark for the year. To repeat, as long as you qualify to pass the year, completing the summer assessments can only help not hinder you because we will not let the extraordinary circumstances in which you are completing these assessments leave you with a mark below your current overall mark. Transcripts will be annotated to explain the reported results.
We are continuing to develop policy, following the same principles, to apply to assessments that are normally due to be submitted in the autumn (e.g. Masters degree dissertations submitted) and we will provide further guidance in due course.
Please note that in some circumstances programmes subject to professional regulation may not be permitted to apply the ‘safety net’ policy above. If this is the case you will be communicated with separately by your College. Along with other Russell Group universities, we are doing everything we can to make the case to professional bodies to be as accommodating as possible under these circumstances. For PGCE Students we are also currently waiting for guidance about the award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) from the DfE. As soon as we receive this all PGCE students will be contacted.
At the end of the summer examination and assessment period, all results will be scrutinised at the level of each module and of each individual student at the University’s Assessment Progression and Awarding Committees (APACs). Throughout this process, our aim is to ensure the fairness and integrity of the Exeter award, as well as to support our students through this difficult situation in a way that allows them to progress or be awarded. Under the current circumstances, we will be moving back the dates of these APACs sufficiently to allow colleagues to undertake marking, and enable us to make considered recommendations in all cases. This means you will receive your grades and outcomes from summer assessments slightly later than originally planned. We will outline the revised timetable on the 3rd April.
We are well aware that it is not within our power to alleviate fully the anxiety you will be feeling at the moment, but we hope that the decisions above mean you will be able to prepare for these remote examinations and coursework without worrying that achievements that you have already made will be undermined by the difficult conditions under which you’re working. Different Universities have different assessment strategies and, therefore, some will take a different approach to these challenges. We are in a position to provide the ‘safety-net’ because the University of Exeter assesses your attainment at regular intervals, and in various ways, throughout the course of your degrees.
Of course, things are changing quickly at the moment. If the situation develops in such a way as to make this plan unworkable (if, for example, the rate of infection among the university community is higher than we hope and expect it to be), then we may have to adapt these plans. But for now we are convinced that the combination of the safety-net and the options for deferral offer the best solution for you, our students. If these arrangements change in any way, we will of course let you know as soon as possible. It is our over-riding ambition to support you to succeed in these extraordinary circumstances.
Once again, thank you for your patience in these incredibly difficult and challenging times. We wish you all the best for these upcoming assessments, and that you and those near and dear to you stay safe and well.
Professor Tim Quine