No Disadvantage Policy Update – 8th April 2020
This message was originally sent as an email to all SALC students on Wednesday 8th April 2020.
Dear SALC Student,
This is a very long email but we hope that it finds you well and will clarify some of the things that the Faculty of Humanities and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures (SALC) are putting in place to support you during the current pandemic. The last few weeks have been difficult and unsettling for us all and we are aware that, quite naturally, you may be worried about the prospect of completing your studies this academic year.
We are determined to support you through the academic challenges of completing this year at the University. We also want to support your broader well-being during this pandemic and beyond. We are all experiencing this pandemic in different ways. Some of you will have returned home to be with family, others remain on campus. We are here for all of you whatever your circumstances.
Our primary concern is to act in the best interests of all our students, and to ensure that as many of you as possible can progress and/ or graduate this summer. We are committed to your academic success and we want to encourage you to participate as fully as possible with the remainder of your studies and assessments so that you acquire the skills, attributes and knowledge that is expected at your level of study. However, we recognise that your study this semester has been impacted significantly by Covid-19. This email will highlight some of the specific changes we are making: the full details of how these will apply in your own case will be communicated to you by your department. They will be in touch with you again as soon as arrangements are confirmed in the coming weeks.
NO DISADVANTAGE POLICY
What is the policy?
The ‘no disadvantage’ policy is intended to act as a safety net for students. It allows you to complete your assessments confident that the award or grades that you receive this semester will reflect your academic attainment under normal circumstances.
- So long as you achieve a pass mark, we will ensure that the final mark awarded in each course unit/module taken or examined during the second semester is the same as, or higher than, a ‘baseline mark’ calculated from completed modules.
- The no disadvantage policy applies to all undergraduate and taught postgraduate summative assessments completed during semester 2 including coursework and open book exams (or alternative assessments). This means that it applies to all assignments that have been completed since 27 January 2020. Summative assessments are those assessments where the grade you are awarded contributes to your end of course unit/module mark.
- The policy also applies to undergraduate and postgraduate taught dissertations/projects that are due to be submitted for the first time during the current academic year. The policy will also apply to students who are given extensions or where the due date for submission (e.g. PGT dissertations) is later than 20 September 2020 but where the majority of the work was expected to be undertaken before 20 September 2020.
- The policy will not apply to students who are (re)submitting a dissertation from a previous academic year (e.g. with corrections or an extension). If you are in this category, and you feel that you have been impacted by Covid-19, then you should submit a mitigating circumstances application.
What does it mean for you?
- If the mark you are awarded for a completed course unit or module this semester is a pass mark but is a lower mark than your ‘baseline’ mark, your mark will be adjusted upwards to the baseline mark. So, for example, if your final mark on a semester 2 module is 63% but your baseline is 67%, the mark you will be awarded will be 67%.
- If the mark for a course unit or module is higher than the baseline mark, then you will be awarded the higher mark. In this case, if the mark you were awarded on a semester 2 module was 72%, but your baseline was 65%, you mark would remain at 72%.
- This policy will be applied to the final marks achieved in a course unit/module and not to each individual assessment within a course unit/module.
- It is important to note that if you fail a module, then the fail mark will not be adjusted to the baseline because you have not achieved the intended learning outcomes. You will still be entitled to the normal resit opportunities for your level of study.
- The ‘no disadvantage’ policy will not be applied to first year formative assessments. If you are in first year, you will progress at the end of this academic year into year two. The marks awarded for the formative assessment will not appear on your transcript. These formative assessments are intended to help you to gauge your progress during the first year and it would not be helpful to you to simply award the baseline mark.
How will we calculate the baseline mark?
We are currently modelling different approaches for calculating the ‘baseline mark’ to ensure that our approach is both reliable and robust. In short, the baseline mark will be calculated for each individual student based on the marks that they were awarded on work that was not impacted by Covid-19. We will communicate full details of this calculation after the Easter break.
- It is important that, where possible, you continue to engage with your studies and assessments. The no disadvantage policy is designed so that your hard work can still improve your marks and contribute to a better degree outcome.
- At the examination boards at the end of the year where your marks are confirmed in the presence of external examiners your individual marks will be scrutinised to ensure that a fair and robust outcome is the result.
There are some programmes that are professionally accredited courses or, in other ways, ‘non-standard’. In these cases aspects of the policy may have to be adapted to meet the professional requirements of the programme. Your programme teams will be in touch in due course to explain the arrangements being put in place on your programmes.
Will my degree be ‘worth the same’ with the changes that are taking place?
In short, the answer is yes. We will be assessing the same intended learning outcomes as we would be assessing if you were having an exam or assessment on campus. We have been very careful to ensure that all our qualifications stand up to scrutiny in an unusual year, including by employers and accrediting bodies. Our approach is consistent with approaches being taken at other Russell Group Universities.
The ‘no disadvantage’ policy has been designed to acknowledge the potential disadvantage that many of our students are currently facing and the additional stress that may have been caused during the assessment period. If you feel that you have been significantly impacted by the current situation in ways beyond those addressed by the ‘no disadvantage’ policy, then you can still submit a self-certification (for illness lasting 7 days or less) or mitigating circumstances application in the usual way.
We know from feedback that some students have found it difficult to access online learning materials. If you need support and to ensure we can prioritise appropriately, the university has introduced a single email address that you can contact for advice and support with engaging and accessing online learning and assessment: firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can also call +44 (0) 161 306 6199 (Monday to Friday during UK Office hours). There is an experienced team waiting to help you.
We know that a number of students have started to struggle financially because of a sudden change of circumstances (e.g. through the loss of part time work). The University has widened access to the hardship funds and made it easier to make an application. Further details can be found here: http://www.studentsupport.manchester.ac.uk/finances/funding-opportunities/all/living-cost-support-fund/ or by emailing email@example.com.
Office Hours, Academic Advising and Student Support
Whilst the Manchester campus may be closed, the university is very much open and carrying on with teaching, assessment and student support. Do continue take advantage of Office Hours, Academic Advising and Student Support activities that are being delivered remotely online for the rest of the academic year. Even if you have never used them before, you may find talking to your academic advisor, programme team or professional services colleagues useful at this point as the last few weeks have been difficult for us all.
What services are available?
The Student Support webpage is the single point of truth during this period. You can visit this page for the latest information and advice, including wellbeing resources and details of how to contact support services: http://www.studentsupport.manchester.ac.uk/
Health and Wellbeing Support
- Counselling and Mental Health Service: http://www.counsellingservice.manchester.ac.uk/
- Disability and Advisory Support Service/UMAC: http://www.dso.manchester.ac.uk/
- Occupational Health: http://www.occhealth.manchester.ac.uk/
- Big White Wall (free online mental health and wellbeing support): http://www.studentsupport.manchester.ac.uk/taking-care/big-white-wall/
Study Skills Support
- Library support – The Library Chat facility can be accessed by clicking the yellow button on the right-hand side of the Library homepage: https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/help-and-support/
- My Learning Essentials: https://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/using-the-library/students/training-and-skills-support/my-learning-essentials/
Student Services Centre
The Student Services Centre is remotely delivering all non-School based administrative processes: http://www.studentsupport.manchester.ac.uk/student-services/
The Careers Service has moved to online delivery, with services for students and graduates being delivered by email, Skype and phone: http://www.careers.manchester.ac.uk/aboutus/news/
We are well aware that we cannot remove fully the anxiety that some of you may be feeling at this time. We hope that this guidance will provide you with some reassurance.
Of course, things are changing quickly at the moment. We may find ourselves in a position where we have to adapt our plans further (if, for example, the rate of infection in the university community is higher than we are anticipating). At this point, we believe that our plans will allow most students to successfully progress to the next year of their studies or to complete their degree. Of course, if these arrangements change in any way, we will let you know as soon as possible.
Once again, thank you for your patience during these difficult and challenging times. We wish you the best for the upcoming assessments and that you, your families and friends stay safe and well.
Dr Chris Godden – Director of Teaching and Learning, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Professor Alessandro Schiesaro – Head of School, School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Professor Fiona Smyth – Deputy Dean and Vice Dean for Teaching, Learning and Students, Faculty of Humanities