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Updated: Grading Safety Net FAQs

Wednesday 06-05-2020 - 11:50
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Last week, the University announced a new 'grading safety net' as a result of lobbying by Your Students' Union to protect your academic outcomes during the Covid-19 pandemic.

We're aware that you have a lot of questions about how this will work and what it will mean for you and your course. Please do refer to the University's FAQs for detailed information on the Emergency Academic Regulations (also known as the grading safety net). We know there's a lot of information to digest, so we've developed an additional set of 'bitesize' FAQs which you can find below which we hope will offer you clarity and reassurance at this stressful time. 

We have worked closely with the University to agree regulations and guidance which we feel supports your academic interests, provides a much needed (and widely called for) safety net to give you some reassurance and also protects the integrity of your degree.

We also worked with Iain Rowan, the Academic Registrar at the University to provide you with this message, outlining the new regulations, what they mean to you and how this is a really big win for students.

If after reading the FAQs you have any further questions please do get in touch on yoursu@sunderland.ac.uk.

Yes! The Emergency Regulations set out how the University will use various tools to ensure that students are not subject to disadvantage, while at the same time ensuring strong academic standards. We call this our ‘grading safety net’

The University will use an ‘impact assessment’ to look at the marks in comparison to what your cohort would be expected to have achieved, given previous results, especially any work that you have done this year. If the impact assessment shows that you have been disadvantaged, then the University can adjust marks or grades to remove the disadvantage.

They secure the value of your degree! Ensuring students aren’t disadvantaged, while still keeping our high level of academic standards means that employers and others will recognise the value of your degree and the work put into it, and you won’t be disadvantaged compared to students who graduated in other years.

They are our main element of the Grading Safety Net. Each programme will review the impact of the disruption on teaching, assessment and results, and ensure that where necessary decisions are taken to avoid any detriment to you.

This year, you will need to achieve 60 credits. Many of you will have that already from the first semester. The University will work out the equivalent for students on modules that run across the whole year. Once you have 60 credits, your progression is assured. You will though be given credit for the whole year – so you will receive 120 credits.

No! You will be set assessments which aren’t marked and don’t count towards progression, but you will receive feedback on them, and engaging with these is essential for preparing you for your next year of study and making sure you do well in it.

As normal under the existing regulations – but with all the other safety mechanisms of the Emergency Regulations in place. For example, the University can deal with any cases where an assessment is missing because it required physical presence and no alternative was possible.

The University is in contact with all professional and regulatory bodies. To preserve your ability to gain their professional recognition, we have to follow certain regulations that they impose on us, which may (or may not) affect some of the measures in the Emergency Regulations. Your course teams will keep you posted about these

The University intends to enable students to achieve their awards wherever possible, and graduate you on time so you are not disadvantaged.

Module leaders can grant extensions which are flexible to your needs in the current situation, as long as the date still enables your work to be marked and go to the Board as normal. If this is not possible, you need to apply for extenuating circumstances instead.

They are still available as usual if you need them, The big change is that we know it may be very hard for you to produce evidence in the current situation, so we are asking you to self-certify, and explain to us how you were affected instead.

In the first instance contact your Programme Leader to see if the University can help. If it's an issue the University can't help with (like no wifi), then other options in the emergency regulations can be used. This could include extensions, extenuating circumstances or a no-penalty deferral.

The University will look at the impact that the disruption caused by the pandemic has had on your assessments, and take action to ensure that you are not disadvantaged. This might be by raising marks across a cohort of students in line with first semester performance, discounting a particular assessment from the overall average for degree classification, or other steps necessary to ensure that your academic performance reflects what it would have been.

Not all universities are approaching this in the same way, and even those that are taking broadly the same approach differ in the detail. Our approach of a grading safety net will ensure that students are not disadvantaged, while still allowing students opportunities to demonstrate excellence where they are able to. It is really important to us that students can graduate this year knowing that their degrees are seen to demonstrate academic achievement comparable to any other year of graduates. Our grading safety net will prevent disadvantage to you, while still maintaining value in your award.

The University has clarified its existing position on this. For Honours degree and Foundation degree students, assessment boards will consider two degree classifications for you, and award you the highest.

i) one using the average mark for the first semester of study only (your final Semester 1 marks, or the equivalent in time if a module runs September-June). This creates a ‘baseline’ and sets aside the period affected by the pandemic.

ii) one calculated using your full final year as usual.

For Postgraduate students, assessment boards will consider two calculations for Merit and Distinction for you, and award you the highest.

i) one using the average mark for the first semester of study only 

ii) one calculated on the average of your best 120 credits out of the 180 for your masters.

In both cases, you will still be required to pass all the credits needed for your award. These changes mean that you cannot receive a lower classification than your baseline classification from the first half of the academic year, prior to the disruption. This approach guarantees you a safety net from the effects of the disruption, but still allows you to be rewarded for an improved performance in the second part of the year. You should read the University’s emergency regulations for full detail of how this will work.

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