SU Officers outline safety net policy as University claims “moral imperative” to ensure exam mitigation for all


According to SU President Seun Twins, Durham University has agreed that “a plethora of mitigating circumstances policies and academic insurance policies is a moral imperative for ALL students who are learning under this pandemic.”

Conversations took place last term about adopting a similar “no detriment” policy to last year, but the University said that this was not possible as for the majority of students it would depend on grades achieved in 2020-21, which were already decided by an emergency policy. 

In a significant update, the SU has outlined the specifics of the safety net they will be campaigning to support all students this year. These will be brought into talks with the University, with the final policy expected towards the end of this week.

The two SU Academic Officers, Sarah McAllister and Nailah Haque, announced that they will be asking Durham University to:

  • Introduce a model which takes only the best-allotted amount of credits that a student has achieved. For those taking 120 credits, this would mean only the marks from the top 80 credits would be counted. Dissertations and final projects would be included in the yearly average. This model would be used as a safety net for taught postgraduate students.
  • Introduce a more lenient ‘near miss’ policy that will allow students’ marks to be rounded up if they have just missed a grade boundary. This is especially important for students whose grades will impact their final degree result.
  • Grant extensions for all students without requiring evidence and it should be made clear that the pandemic is reason enough to ask for extensions
  • Grant a further extension for all PhD students, along with fee waivers, as was done last term
  • Ensure that difficulty in accessing resources is taken into account. This includes a “Research Adjustment and Limitation” form that students can fill in if they cannot access the library or their own personal resources. This is particularly applicable to final year and MA students who have large research projects to complete, often with many resources not available online. 
  • Make uncapped resits available in the summer. This would mean that if circumstances affect the results of any student this exam season, they would be able to resit without fear of their grade being capped. 
  • Introduce ‘performance benchmarking’ – where module averages are compared to previous years and adjusted accordingly. Of course, new modules would not be affected. 

The full list of proposed suggestions to the University can be found here

SU president Seun Twins has announced on Twitter that the university has agreed that “a plethora of mitigating circumstances policies and academic insurance policies is a moral imperative for ALL students who are learning under this pandemic.”

Twitter @DurhamSUpres

In addition to the safety net policies, the Academic Officers also made a number of suggestions to the University on student welfare, including:

  • Monitoring the expectations of postgraduates who are teaching, so they are not being unfairly overwhelmed with work
  • Reducing confusion and anxiety by committing to an easily accessible line of communication between departments and students
  • Upholding contracts for postgraduate researchers which have been cancelled due to the lockdown and ensuring that they are not financially disadvantaged

The Russell Group’s recent announcement that students will go without a no-detriment policy this year triggered Student Union presidents from across the Group to write an open letter to Russell Group Chief Executive Dr Bradshaw and the relevant Vice-Chancellors. Several students pointed out that Durham SU had not signed this letter – Seun Twins later clarified that as all staff in Durham SU were on furlough, she was legally barred from working, and made clear online that she fully supported the letter and co-operated with other presidents in its drafting. 

An open letter to Durham University’s Executive Committee (UEC) and a petition on call for Durham University to create a similar no-detriment policy to the one granted last year. They have to date received over 2,000 and 1,800 signatures, respectively.

A meeting will be held on Friday 15th January open to all students to offer any suggestions or concerns that they may have regarding the new SU policy. It is taking place on Zoom and the event link can be found here.

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