It has been nearly a year since some University of Edinburgh students sat in a classroom. Following the university lecturers’ strike, the university closed in mid-March 2020 because of COVID-19. Concerns over honor exams and dissertations encouraged the Russel Group to implement a non-detrimental policy for graduates of 2020, meaning their May exams scores cannot harm their overall mark.
With the pandemic’s 3rd wave is underway, the Russell Group announced on the 12th of January 2021 that it would not reimplement the non-detrimental policy for 2021 graduates.
“It is more appropriate for universities to have a range of policies and tools in place to ensure that all students are given a fair grade, reflecting their hard work and taking into account the circumstances they face this year, so no one is unfairly disadvantaged because of Covid-19,” said Chief Executive Dr. Tim Bradshaw. He also remarked that the no detriment policy is “challenging and unfeasible.” The announcement is found here.
However, as students enrolled at these universities, we believe that the Russell Group must reimplement the no detriment policy.
Many members of the class of 2021 graduates have spent nearly 75 percent of their degree under unusual circumstances: a global pandemic, online university, and an upheaval of their everyday lives. Some, myself included, have found it challenging to keep up with the demands of course work for various reasons such as mental health and an overall lack of support and resources from the university.
It is evident and necessary for our lecturers and university administration to recognize our grievances and offer the needed support during these difficult times. Many students have petitioned for the reimplementation of the no detriment policy and have even written letters to the Russell Group and the UK government pleading for changes. As of today, the 20th of January 2021, nearly 23 thousand student signatures are demanding that the vice-chancellors at universities reconsider their policies to:
- Ensure grades awarded are not impacted by factors outside of students’ control.
- Ensure fidelity to the high standards of the universities.
- Ensure the response to each student is proportionate to the disadvantage under which they have been placed – the policy needs to allow for an individual’s circumstances and cannot be a generalized approach using previous cohorts as examples.
Arguably, the very nature of online courses limits the quality of education students are receiving during the 2020/21 academic year. Quality education is far more than the content taught on slides. Instead, it comprises robust conversations with our peers, meaningfully challenging opinions during tutorials, and asking questions to our lecturers. Online university does not provide such an environment, so it becomes difficult to understand or expect students to perform at the same level as they would have during normal circumstances. Thus, it becomes necessary that our educational institutions recognize that the no detriment policy must be reimplemented as compensation during these difficult and unusual times.