University of Exeter confirms new ‘no-disadvantage guarantee’

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The University of Exeter has confirmed its new “no-disadvantage guarantee” to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ academic outcomes.

Previously, the university had announced the removal of the “safety net” (“no detriment”) policy which had been implemented last academic year.

Many students have requested that the university reintroduce a “no detriment” policy for this academic year. The group Students For Academic Mitigation, which started at Exeter, has received over 20,000 signatures on its petition “to dispute the failure to introduce national, fair mitigation policies to protect our futures”.

“The University, Students’ Guild in Exeter and Students’ Union in Cornwall have been working in partnership, involving committed student representatives, to ensure that you are not disadvantaged as a result of the many impacts of the pandemic”, the university said.

In the “no-disadvantage guarantee”, three “safety nets” have been developed for “whole cohorts”, “individual students”, and “finalists and taught postgraduate students entering the job market or applying for further study”.

For “whole cohorts”, exam boards “will compare average marks, and the distribution of marks, achieved by each year group this year with the equivalent marks from previous years. They will then apply appropriate adjustments to correct any significant deviation.”

The university affirmed “that your year group will suffer no detriment when compared to those who came before you, and those who will follow”.

Individually, students will have the option to apply for mitigation, deferrals, and extensions without having to give evidence. The policies on appeals have been revised “to reduce the burden of evidence required”. The university committed to “empowering departmental exam boards to take decisions and make adjustments – where justified – to account for the circumstances of individual students”.

Final-year and taught postgraduate students will be given a “safety net” for degree classification. The university said: “We commit to expanding our definition of the ‘borderline zone’ and ensure that all students who are close to a degree class border are considered in detail.” Exam boards are able to award students in the borderline zone a higher classification “where at least half the student’s weighted credits lie in the higher class”.

Details on the new arrangements, including how borderline zones will be defined, will be shared soon.