University of Exeter outlines new COVID-19 academic policies, removes ‘safety net’

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The University of Exeter has confirmed its plans for “Protecting your learning and academic outcomes” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last academic year, the university introduced a “safety net” (“no detriment”) policy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on students’ grades. 

There will be no “individual safety net” this academic year as current conditions differ from “the immediate emergency of the pandemic’s escalation”. The university said: “We cannot create a benchmark now for the whole year based on last year’s performance alone, or based on qualifications obtained outside Exeter (1st years and postgraduates with no University of Exeter record of achievement), because that would risk undermining our academic standards and the value of our degrees.”

Previously, an open letter, which has been signed by nearly 1,000 students, protested the university’s decision not to carry a “no detriment” policy over to this academic year.

Now, on a collective level, the university will “scrutinise the distribution of marks across whole cohorts and ensure that the profile of academic outcomes is consistent with previous years” to make sure that marks are awarded fairly.

Assessed work will be marked with consideration to this academic year’s “blended model” of study, and “assessment design and marking criteria have been adapted” in light of current circumstances.

On an individual level, the university will continue its “self-certification mitigation policy”, which allows students to request deferrals without giving evidence.

Additionally, it will review the powers of the Assessment, Progression and Awarding Committee Working Party to adjust individual students’ marks if there is “clear evidence of the deleterious impact of extenuating circumstances on academic performance”.

These new policies are set to last for the rest of the academic year. The university will continue to review its approach towards appeals and mitigation, working with the Students’ Guild and Students’ Union.

The Success for All Fund continues to support students whose studies have been affected by the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.