Exams to take place online this academic year

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The University has confirmed that examinations for the 2021/2022 academic year will take place online. Only a few departments had already informed students of the decision, made in a University Senate meeting on October 12th.

The exact format of exams is yet to be confirmed, but Palatinate understands that discussions revolve around the time frame for online examinations, and whether to monitor and time students within the time frame.

Departments will be able to request to hold exams in-person, where learning outcomes would be “impossible or very difficult” to assess using online examinations, or where physical examinations are necessary for the purposes of accreditation. Departments must carry out student consultation when applying for such an exemption.

In an email sent to students, the Maths Department confirmed that it has applied for permission to “hold all of our examinations in May/June in-person”. The Physics Department, meanwhile, has said that it would like to “explore the possibility of a shorter window” within which to conduct examination, and that each examination will be “answerable within a significantly shorter time” than during previous online examinations. The Chemistry department has also confirmed that it will be conducting online examinations.

Departments will be able to request to hold exams in-person

Where there are to be in-person examinations, alternative online examinations will need to be made available for students studying remotely, those with reasonable adjustments, and in the case of renewed Covid-19 restrictions preventing any physical examinations.

The motion approved in the Senate pointed to positive feedback on online examinations over the past two years as the crucial factor in its decision, specifying significant benefits for students, particularly those from “underrepresented or disadvantaged groups”. Senate cites “large reductions in attainment gaps and a significant drop in the volume of examinations concessions” as evidence of this.

The motion also noted that, even prior to the pandemic, the University was “reaching the limits of space for conducting examinations across the University estate”, and that such issues may be exacerbated in light of air quality monitoring requirements.

They also point out that there are now several cohorts of students who have not undertaken any physical examinations at Durham, who would require “additional support and reassurance” if examinations were to be held in-person.

Senate is due to finalise arrangements at its next meeting on 23rd November.

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