Update from Sam: making sure assessments are fair for all

Friday 27-03-2020 - 15:52

Over the past week, concerns have been raised over the University’s mitigation policy with regards to assessments. As your Students' Union, we’re working hard to listen to students’ concerns and to effectively communicate them to the University. The fear and anxiety many students are feeling over their assessments is entirely natural, and we've seen and are taking into account some of the proactive ways in which you have been organising to ensure this year's assessments are as fair as possible.

Ensuring you have access to resources

Our approach throughout this process has been to prioritise students’ access to resources, with a specific view to ensure that any new assessments do not place any students at a disadvantage. So, over the past week, we have been lobbying the University to make money available for students without access to a computer and other resources at home. As a result, we are currently working with the University to rework the criteria for the hardship fund with these unique circumstances in mind, to make the process quicker and easier to navigate.

Lobbying for a ‘safety net’ mitigations policy

In addition, through conversations with students, course reps, faculty reps and other unions across the country, we are now firm in our belief that in conjunction with the University having a duty to ensure all students have equal access to their assessments, a ‘safety net’ mitigations policy should be adopted.

The policy we will be lobbying for is like the model adopted by Exeter University. The Exeter policy is that “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“. Therefore, where possible, as long as you qualify to pass the year, your grade can only be improved through sitting this year's exams.

We are aware that other approaches and a variety of opinions exist about how best to mitigate against the disruption caused by COVID-19. After much thought and deliberation, we believe that this model is the fairest model for students. Models that are primarily based on previous years’ grades put students who have improved over the course of their university journey at a disadvantage and fail to consider the disparity in difficulty between years.

The importance of student consultation

Student consultation and collaboration is more important than ever in order to minimise anxiety and to ensure that any steps taken by the University reflect the realities of all students' experiences. At a time of such uncertainty, the University needs to be doing all it can to reduce misinformation. We are clear that the current communications from the University have not been sufficient. Moving forward, communications and decisions need to be considerably more transparent and student representation needs to be at the heart of this process.

We are hopeful that this will mean that you are not disadvantaged for something that none of us could have predicted, and that you will get the most up-to-date information as it is available. If you have any questions or concerns about your education and how this is affecting you, please send me a message at su.ugacademic@durham.ac.uk.


*Please note: the Advice Service helpline is not a crisis number, in an emergency please use 999 as usual.




Covid-19, Sam - UG Academic Officer

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