Today, you will be receiving an update in relation to changes to assessment policy from the University. This update comes after several meetings with the Teaching and Learning Group (TLG) of the University across the last week. Your officers play a key role in this and many other groups, and the Assessment Pledge has been developed to ensure our students are not disadvantaged in an academic year which has so far been full of disruptions and disappointments. This 5-point pledge has not been easy to reach given how complex the University is and the need to equitably satisfy all our UG and PGT students across different faculties and levels of study. The pandemic has made clear to us the often competing challenges faced by different parts of the University (particularly in relation to accredited courses).
We understand that many of you are disappointed that a no-disadvantage policy similar to one that was adopted at the onset of the pandemic hasn’t been implemented at this stage. The Russell Group (of which the University of Manchester is a member) issued a statement to explain why it cannot happen. We felt this was an unnecessary intervention and caused even more frustration amongst students who are about to navigate a difficult assessment period. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the University has met many of the requirements set out in the letter from Russell Group Students’ Unions last week. This is certainly not the case for many other Universities.
Whilst we are hopeful that the Assessment Pledge will go a long way to alleviate the stress of our students, we don’t believe that these measures go far enough to mitigate the full impact that Covid is having on our students and their education. We want to be clear that there are other ideas which we have tried to fight for but could did have consensus of opinion amongst members of the Teaching & Learning Group (TLG). Those policies include:
• Auto progression of First Year Students – We feel that new students who have no track record of assessment deserve the chance of progressing to a more usual academic year without fear of failure during this time.
• Uncapped resits for all students – We feel that current restrictions are going to impinge on academic performance more than can be addressed with mitigating circumstances, and feel that re-assessments shouldn’t be capped should they be needed. We intend to revisit this discussion after this set of examinations are over.
As your Education and Postgraduate Officers, we will continue to have meetings with TLG at least once every week and discussions will continue to make sure that where there is a need to revisit this Assessment Pledge and put in more measures to protect our students, we will advocate for that. We know a lot of you will have questions about how some of the more complex points made in the pledge will be implemented. For example, the moderation in-line with previous years. We kindly ask that you exercise some patience with your faculty as they break this down in a more understandable manner for all students.
Going forward, we also intend to use the feedback from our students in response to this Assessment Pledge to influence the University decisions. We are actively involving our student reps in the upcoming Annual Teaching and Learning Review where the student voice will be at the forefront of discussions on critical topics like Assessment and Feedback and Online, Flexible Learning. We know for many of you, the experience doesn’t match your expectations, and this isn’t good enough.
We will be hosting a Question and Answer Session with the Vice Chancellor, Nancy Rothwell, and members of her Senior Leadership Team on Friday 29th January 12.30-1.30pm which will be streamed live via our SU Facebook Page, and we will continue to communicate with our students to ensure that we continue to gather your feedback and keep you updated.
As a final note, we wanted to remind you that throughout this past 2 weeks, your open letters, your signatures, your engagement – you – mattered. As your elected representatives, we would like to thank you for the trust you are putting in us everyday during such a troubled and challenging year; to do our very best to represents your interests, to empower your voices and to enact positive change in our institution as a united student body.
Laetitia Alexandratos, Education Officer
Nana Fredua Agyeman, Postgraduate Officer