Exams and Assessment Policies 2020/21

VP Education Alissa Chohan breaks down the key areas of the Fairness and Assurance Policy and outlines the series of safeguarding measures put in place by the University to ensure you are not academically disadvantaged this year.

It is no secret that this academic year has been incredibly difficult for many students due to a variety of different reasons relating to the global pandemic. Last academic year, a series of regulations and policies were implemented to ensure that students were not academically disadvantaged as a result of the pandemic. The premise of this remains the same this year with a series of safeguarding measures implemented by the University to prevent academic disadvantage, although they do not, in all cases, adopt the same form as 2019/20.

A ‘basket approach’ of measures have been introduced, encapsulated under the umbrella of an overall policy named the Fairness and Assurance Policy - the principles of which are outlined below. I highly encourage all students to follow the links provided below to the Student Intranet where you can find lengthy and detailed information relating to your specific year and mode of study. Please take the time to read this carefully. These policies will be applied when calculating your overall degree classification at the end of the year, and therefore take into account all exams and assessments completed throughout the course of the 2020/21 academic year and not just the summer exam period.

Representing Your Interests

In creating these policies, myself and President Kate Roberts have been heavily involved in meetings with the University to ensure that students’ views and needs have been represented. We then extended this consultation process to school reps and representatives from our PGT department, providing an opportunity for them to input into the policies and suggest amendments where necessary. Thank you to all the students who were involved in this process for your insightful and valuable contributions. This piece of work has proven to be extremely complex and difficult to navigate, however I am confident that we have thoroughly involved students in the decision-making process and that you have been accurately represented. The University has aimed to provide policies that will benefit you, and prevent academic disadvantage, whilst also maintaining the value of your degree.

Q&A – Thursday 4 February (5:30-6:30pm)

We are co-hosting a Q&A with the University on these new exams and assessment policies tomorrow (Thursday 4 February) from 5:30-6:30pm, allowing you the opportunity to ask anything you would like. Should you have further questions following this blog and after reading the content on the intranet, or would simply like to have these policies explained out loud, this is a great session to attend. If you have any questions in relation to specific modules I’d recommend contacting your module leader or a member of staff in your department.

Join the Q&A

Fairness and Assurance Policy

Read the policy

Moderation and Scaling:  Applicable to all UG and PGT Students

The Department Assessment Boards will review the module results to assess the performance levels of the cohort on that module compared to previous years (with the exception of the 2019/20 academic year). Where there is evidence that there is a pattern of underperformance of the cohort in that module, scaling may be necessary. Scaling is where a set of marks for a module is adjusted to ensure students are being graded fairly and so the results patterns reflect general performance patterns of previous years to compensate for any patterns of decrease in marks for this year. It is important to note that no marks will be scaled down, so if it is necessary to scale, it can only benefit your marks and not hinder them!

Resit Policy: Applicable to all UG and PGT students

Undergraduate and PGT students will be automatically entitled to a further attempt if you fail or do not complete an assessment. Final year students will also have the right to apply for a limited amount of uncapped discretionary resits. However, you are not guaranteed to receive this. Department Assessment Boards will grant uncapped resits where requested, if underperformance is identified in comparison to previous performance across other modules and if it will impact your over degree classification (i.e. move from a 2:1 to a first class degree).

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Safety Net: Applicable to all non-finalists in their second/third year

The application of a ‘safety net’ ensures that when your final degree classification is calculated, your mark for your second year cannot lower your overall degree classification. Your final degree mark will be calculated using the usual standard algorithm which double weights the final year. The College will also calculate an average of just your third year. Whichever mark is highest will be used to award your degree classification. This is the same policy as implemented in 2019/20 for non-finalists in second/third year.

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Extensions Policy: Applicable to all UG and PGT students

In term one, the extensions policy was adjusted and made more lenient, allowing students to apply for two extensions per term, rather than the usual two per academic year. The requirement for evidence for ten-day extensions has also been relaxed and IT issues have been classed as a valid reason for being granted an extension. This revised policy will continue to be in place for the remainder of the academic year.

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Foundation and First Year Students:

As your overall first year classification does not count towards your final grade, any policies like the ones shown above are not required. However, you are still able to apply for extensions to help cope with workload and impacts of the pandemic affecting your ability to complete work on time. There is also a more simplified progression process, should you fail a module.

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Extenuating Circumstances

For this academic year, the application of the 2020/21 Fairness and Assurance Policy means that the resit option, which would be the outcome of a successful application for Extenuating Circumstances, is available to all students. As a result, an Extenuating Circumstances submission is not necessary.

Extenuating Circumstances submissions are not necessary for the general impact of Covid on teaching and assessment; this is understood and is already being taken into account. In the same way, where a particular assessment or module was impacted, departments will take this into account in processing final marks and outcomes and through the Module Review and Scaling approach.

However, you should consider submitting Extenuating Circumstances where you believe your individual performance has been affected due to specific unforeseen circumstances outside your control. These circumstances can be Covid or non-Covid related. The SU Advice Centre can support and guide you with this process.

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How do the regulations from last year benefit me?

If you were a non-finalist student last academic year (2019/20), you were given a Safety Net and Best 90 credit policy for last academic year. This means that when your final degree percentage is calculated this year, your marks achieved in the last academic year cannot lower your overall degree classification. This means if your marks from second year lower your grade using the standard algorithm that double weights the third year, you will be classified based on your third year marks alone. The Best 90 credit policy from last year also means that your second year overall mark only took into account the Best 90 credits and discounted your lowest 30 credits. Click below for full details on how your final degree classification will be calculated.

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What format will my exams and assessment be in this year?

Due to the ongoing pandemic, all scheduled summer exams will be held online (with the potential exception of Accounting and Finance where the University are confirming if the professional accreditation requires in person exams – to be confirmed ASAP by the University). This means that your exams will take the form of either online exams or online open book exams. They key difference between the two is the available time frame to complete the exams – more information will be provided by your departments. In some subjects the University plans to hold practical assessments face-to-face, if they are able. Arrangements will be confirmed by schools as soon as it’s possible to do so and in line with Government restrictions. You can expect your exam timetable to be published on Tuesday 23 March.

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Thank you for reading through this information carefully. This has been an extremely complex piece of work and I would urge all students to visit the Student intranet, using the links provided in the University email update on exams and assessments, to gain a more detailed understanding of the policies covered in this blog. You should reach out to your academic department if you have any specific worries. You can also contact the SU Advice Centre for academic advice and the University wellbeing services if you are feeling anxious or worried about the upcoming assessment period or any other matters. If you have any further question for myself, don’t forget there is the Q&A on Thursday 4 February, or, you can also contact me via email at VPEducation@su.rhul.ac.uk.