Russell Group reject safety net policy for students


The distinguished ‘Russell Group’ of research-led British universities, including Durham, have confirmed they will not be offering a “no detriment” policy or other safety nets to students affected by the COVID crisis.

This means over 446,000 students, including those in Durham, will not be able to secure the same academic result guarantees seen in 2020.  

The statement was released days after Boris Johnson confirmed all in-person teaching except for key subjects such as dentistry will be suspended until at least mid-February. The Russell Group described the measures put in place for the 2020 period as “emergency measures” which would not be “appropriate” for the current academic year.

The ‘safety net’ policy in place in 2020 meant academic examinations taken after April 1st could only improve the overall outcomes of students’ degrees. This was put in place after a petition reached over 3,500 signatures demanding the implementation of such policies as seen in other universities.

The statement went on to say that the group would “continue to work in partnership with our students to review our approach to mitigation measures” and that any updates would be as “compassionate and empathetic as they can be”.

The statement also sought to explain why such action has been taken this year. The lack of “pre-pandemic benchmarking data” for most students would render any such algorithms of grading useless as they may not reflect the realistic attainment of students. The need to “protect academic standards and the integrity of our degrees” is also cited as a major cause of the move.

The statement did seek to reaffirm a commitment to helping students particularly impacted by the new lockdown. “We will also of course be taking their individual circumstances into account”. Additionally, it confirmed that it would be easier to seek help where needed. Written evidence needed to support SAC forms and deadline extensions will not be waived for the rest of the year.

Leeds Beckett University was the first in the U.K. to confirm a continued implementation of a safety net policy for their students this year. No other universities have so far confirmed the adoption of the same approach. Around 70% introduced such measures last year, with far fewer expected to do the same following this announcement.


5 thoughts on “Russell Group reject safety net policy for students

  • How can students possibly achieve their personal best working from home with littel or no access to research material archives etc… Lack of study space as family members are home too. My sons appointed supervisor went on annual leave twice last year through a national lockdown all libraries closed.
    Again this year working on an MA no access to archives, etc…. However the support is excellent from current university. Some safety net must be offered to all students

  • Unable to work during the summer to support his studies so now taking any work he can with the balance of studies, paying London prices for accommodation he is unable to use, not seen the inside of his university since March, little or no support, an exam looming. Maximum stress, minimum support. Can I point out the obvious to the universities, my son is one of your customers and along with many other customers, they are not receiving the service they should get. Whilst you punish your current customers, consider the message you send to prospective customers. What you do now and the way you treat your students will have a direct impact on your own futures.

  • Echo the above. Daughter’s stress levels are sky high. Paying through the nose for accommodation she doesn’t live in, work has dried up so she has to rely on us, university keeps chopping and changing with regards to marks for exams and coursework and ABSOLUTELY NO SUPPORT from the university. Utterley appalled, particularly as her first semester was marred by 3 weeks of lecturer strikes.

  • Echo your sentiments.

    I have a daughter in last year of her degree, who works extremely hard, she too had strikes for a month in second year Feb then Covid hit. Again libraries closed cannot access a lot of info for research. Had to pay for accommodation that she couldn’t use. Unis have not gone far enough to help these young people. They did nothing to help students get a reduction in private accommodation.
    I have a son also in his first year and he can’t go back. Five of us all working at home, internet crashing stress levels high. How can you justify not having a detriment policy, when these students have barely had any seminars/lectures.

    Not to mention I have a 16 yr old who is sitting IGCSES, these are still going ahead, although GCSES and A levels aren’t. Madness.

    How is this a level playing field.

    Unis I urge you to get behind these students. They are our future , they are going to be paying off this debt caused by covid for years to come.

    Give them a break!

  • You are so right. The private accommodation issue must be addressed! My daughter has spent barely any time in hers – the WiFi wouldn’t support 6 of them in lectures at the same time – and is now worried because she is being asked for a deposit for her final year. Work dried up a year ago due to Covid which is adding to her worries.


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