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An update on student assessment

27 Mar 2020

Important message: ‘no disadvantage’ to students

Dear colleague,

Thank you for the considerable efforts you have all been making in moving teaching online. We know how much students appreciate the opportunity to continue to engage with their learning in these uncertain times. It has been brilliant to hear about the different support groups colleagues are forming to share insights and information about online teaching and to continue to bring academic communities together – thank you all.

As you know, we have had to make some very rapid decisions about reducing the assessment burden this summer for staff and students, while maintaining online assessments where these remain necessary. Students are extremely anxious about the impact of the current Covid-19 disruption, and in consequence we are writing today to confirm that, given the current exceptional circumstances, and where professional regulation/accreditation permits, we will be taking a ‘no disadvantage’ approach for all assessments that replace on-campus exams this summer; we are in discussions with accreditation bodies for relevant degrees.

While students will still need to pass these assessments, any marks achieved will only be used in calculating their overall average if this is to their advantage. We are stressing that, even with this safety net, we know that students will still want to perform at their very best – and that high marks in these assessments can still raise their average for the year.

This change of policy has been developed by the Teaching and Learning Group Executive, and has been approved by our President and Vice-Chancellor Nancy Rothwell under delegated authority as Chair of Senate. However, we have many, very different programmes of study, so these arrangements will apply differently in the three Faculties. There will be further information on this shortly. 

We recognise that profession regulation/accreditation needs to be taken into account. Along with other universities, we are doing everything we can to make the case to professional bodies to be as accommodating as possible under these circumstances, while continuing to assure the quality and value of our degrees. 

Our Examination Boards this year will also be taking these exceptional circumstances into account, and applying mitigation on a far greater scale than usual. We are working on guidance for students on the assessment and examination processes too. 

We will be providing more information to students by Tuesday next week, including:

  • Local details on the ‘no disadvantage’ arrangements at a Faculty level. 
  • Information on student self-certification for illness if they are unable to engage with online learning for a period of time; and mitigating circumstances if they are unable to complete an assessment.
  • Support for students who are experiencing difficulties in engaging with online learning or assessments.
  • Information on student hardship funding. 
  • A reminder that wellbeing support is available to our students wherever they are, with more details at Student Support - Manchester.

Your Vice-Deans and Teaching and Learning teams will be in touch early next week with more information and to progress these discussions.  In the meantime, thank you for your patience and continued engagement in these incredibly difficult and challenging times. We hope you remain safe and well.

Professor April McMahon

Vice-President for Teaching Learning and Students

Professor Danielle George

Vice Dean, Teaching, Learning and Students

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Professor Fiona Smyth

Deputy Dean and Vice Dean for Teaching, Learning and Students

Faculty of Humanities

Professor Gillian Wallis

Vice Dean for Teaching, Learning and Students

Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

Simon Merrywest

Director for the Student Experience