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Programme Amendment during the coronavirus outbreak

Process

The amendment process during the coronavirus outbreak is supported by an interim programme amendment matrix.

The matrix is a guide for colleagues and not an exhaustive list, there may be exceptions which TLSD are happy to discuss. 

Several templates have been developed by Admissions colleagues are being introduced to ensure consistency when communicating with different types and levels of offer-holders where amendments impact CMA material information. The templates can be found at

The templates comply with CMA obligations and our Student Protection Plan - Policy on Refunds and Compensation so please use these with limited flexibility and do not delete any content.

When using this matrix please consider the following guiding principles

  • We should be guided by our usual principles to approve amendments to programmes with minimum delay and in consultation with students, keeping them appropriately informed.
  • Consult with your School and/or Faculty Quality Administrator if you are considering making several amendments to a programme at once.  Cumulatively this may have a greater adverse impact on students and will need to be brought to their attention as though a material change.
  • Please also note the guiding principles provided by our Directorate for Legal Affairs to minimise any legal risk when making programme amendments to material information. 

Informing Offer-Holders and Students about Programme Amendments

All changes to learning and assessment approaches need to be clearly communicated to students as soon as possible.

Whilst we believe it reasonable in the context of our student terms and conditions (current 2020-21 version) to relax the need to obtain express agreement from current students when making material changes to their programme, it is strongly advisable for you to consult with students.  This could be to engage student representatives including the Students' Union/Association executive and course representatives, as well as to draw on views offered by individual students where possible.  You can also use feedback from wider channels such as student surveys.   

It is also beneficial to account for this when making decisions, and in the communications you have with students to provide a clear articulation as to why decisions have been taken and how student views have been considered.

OfS published guidance:  to ensure that any arrangements for making contractual changes are fair, it will continue to be necessary for providers to communicate clearly (e.g. by email) with students to notify them about:

  • the changes in advance of them taking effect
  • the reasons for the changes 
  • the impact the changes are likely to have
  • the options available to students in order for them to avoid the changes without being adversely affected.

Please ensure that you consult with your School admissions colleagues and refer to the communication templates where offer-holders are impacted: Programme Amendment, Withdrawal and Suspension Applicant Communication Templates and Guidance (if you have not got access to this Student Marketing & Recruitment, Admissions Sharepoint site, you can request access at SMRA Hub Request Form).

The templates comply with CMA obligations and Student Protection Plan - Policy on Refunds and Compensation so please use these with limited flexibility and do not delete any content.

Updated guidance from June 2020

This update follows a recent OfS publication (10 June) to provide guidance to providers on student and applicant consumer rights in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Context for Implementation

The OfS guidance referenced above requires us to strengthen our approach and messaging, specifically for managing material amendments that will impact current students.  

We have been following the institutional principle that we can relax the need to obtain express agreement from current students as our student terms and conditions (current 2020-21 version) make provision for programme changes as a result of unforeseen events beyond our control.   

We must now account for shifting expectations as we move from a wholly reactive phase to one where information is surfacing that enables us to make firmer plans and to anticipate scenarios.

The interim processes we have in place already embed student consultation and feedback as a critical part of the amendment process, and the interim programme amendment matrix identifies that specific communications are sent to both prospective and current students.  This additionally provides opportunity for Schools and Faculties to resolve matters raised on an individual basis. 

We are supplementing this position with the guiding principles below particularly when considering and communicating changes to current students, and this is reflected in our interim programme amendment matrix.

Key Principles

Our current broad approach to provide students (prospective and current) with timely information, to outline options available to them and to work through any questions they may have about amendments to their programme is not new, and should still be applied.

  • Please continue to document decision-making to strengthen the rationale for changes made.  You can consult online information to support you by referring to the guiding principles that have been put together in collaboration with colleagues in the Directorate for Legal Affairs.
  • We can be pragmatic in our implementation of this updated approach given that we have been able to utilise the flexibility afforded to us by our student terms and conditions (current 2020-21 version) to make changes as a result of unforeseen events, and so implementation needs only to apply where future planned changes are yet to be approved.  Where feasible, for those amendments that are mid-way through submission or consideration please also adopt this approach retrospectively.
  • When making amendments the OfS have published the following specific expectations when considering making amendments, and when communicating changes to students:

A. The alternative teaching and assessment being offered (and the methods of accessing them) caters for all students.
B. Clear and easy to understand information is directly communicated to students. For example by email to tell them:

i. Changes to the course and its delivery as set out in paragraph 40 – this refers to CMA material information with full details contained on page 8.
ii. The reasons for making the changes to courses and why the provider believes this is consistent with the existing terms of the student contract.
iii. Options available to students if they do not wish to continue studying at the provider, including where they wish to transfer to another provider, [interrupt] or postpone their studies.
iv. The complaint handing and redress policies and procedures. (Please see point immediately below)

  • When managing communications with students, as is our usual approach please invite students to raise any questions that they may have regarding amendments made with their School/Department in the first instance and refer students to formal processes should it not be possible to resolve their questions and they still have a complaint to make.

Note about published information for 2021 entry

Colleagues need to update any CMA material information that has changed or will change for 2021 entry in the Course-Finder catalogue, as well as other published locations such as student handbooks, VLE or your Faculty/School intranet.  We must remain CMA compliant by providing clear, consistent and accurate material information such that they can exercise informed choice about what and where to study.   

Alerts have been added to the Course-Finder catalogue directing applicants to the potential need for change.

On receipt of the approved paperwork TLSD will update DISCOVERUNI (formerly UNISTATS) record where appropriate.