For the students who have spent the past week lobbying College to introduce a “no-detriment” policy – which, if implemented, would ensure that students’ overall grade for this year would not be lower than their grade at Christmas – the decisions made by University Council today will hardly be welcome.
College has rejected no detriment – at least in the way students wanted it – on the grounds that “upward-only marking” is unfeasible given the assessment and marking systems Trinity has in place.
Council has instead devised six systems it says will allow students to be assessed and graded fairly in the current circumstances – a method of ensuring students aren’t disadvantaged by their circumstances, without implementing no detriment.
Unsurprisingly, these systems are full of complexities and permutations – so here’s a breakdown of the alternatives to no detriment, and what they might mean for you.
You Can Defer Assessments – Without Proof, and Before and After Sitting Them
Under today’s proposals, students who feel their performance has been affected by current circumstances can apply to their tutor for a deferral. So far, so normal? Well, not quite. Students won’t have to provide proof of adverse conditions (such as a doctor’s note) to get a deferral – under a new “honour system” Trinity is running, and will be allowed to complete assessments in the re-assessment period “with no questions asked”. On academic transcripts, deferrals will be treated as a first attempt, rather than marked as a second bite of the cherry.
Another – significant – proposal means students can now apply to defer an assessment, even if they’ve already taken it, if they feel their performance has been compromised. As with pre-assessment deferral, they won’t have to provide evidence that they were unable to complete their exam, or perform to the best of their ability – and the deferrals will also be treated as first attempts. But if a student requests a retrospective deferral, they must also defer every assessment after that.
You Can Resit Modules You’ve Passed – If the Grade Counts Towards Your Degree
In normal circumstances, students can only resit an exam if they either fail on their first attempt, or are unable to sit the exam in the first place due to illness or other circumstances. It wasn’t a measure designed to allow students to improve their grades – until now. Under today’s proposals, students can apply to resit assessments in order to bring up their grades, if these assessments count towards their degree, and College will take the higher of the two grades.
But unlike deferrals, resits will be marked as a second attempt on academic transcripts. Students will sit the modules in the form they’re taking as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
For both resits and deferrals, students will sit their exams during the reassessment period, which is due to take place in August as usual. However, the document acknowledges that due to the coronavirus situation “at this point”, College cannot guarantee exams will be able to take place then.
College Will Urge Boards of Examiners to Use Discretionary Powers With ‘Greater Latitude’
Final-year students typically have their grades reviewed by boards of examiners, in order to guarantee the integrity of their result. Given the circumstance, Trinity has promised to “instruct boards of examiners to use their powers of discretion with greater latitude than normal”.
In practice, this means boards of examiners will be told to bear in mind a student’s grades in pre-coronavirus times, and allow them to adjust final-year grades upwards if they think a student’s grade is “significantly lower” as a result of the circumstances. They’ll be encouraged to do this “in a manner they deem justified in the spirit of the approach”.
You Can Pass – Even With Failed Modules – As Long as You Get 40% Overall
Under normal circumstances, students must resit an exam if they fail the first time. They can, however, progress as normal if they obtain at least 50 credits from the modules they’ve passed, and scored at least 35 per cent in every other module.
This year, College will “widen the net” to make it easier to pass by compensation. A student will be deemed to have passed the year if their overall mark is over 40 per cent – regardless of how many modules they fail. This, however, will only apply to modules assessed in the second semester – in other words, since the coronavirus broke out. “In essence”, the document states, “a student’s progression would not be denied due to modules failed under the current situation, so long as they meet the pass mark overall”.
Your Transcript Will Acknowledge the Current Situation
Finally, students’ transcripts will note the modules that were taken during the current crisis. This, College hopes, “will flag the exceptional mitigating circumstances to any prospective employers” – as part of a set of measures it says “would collectively recognise and substantially mitigate the difficulties faced by students, ensure the minimal impact on the crisis on progression, and allow students who feel disadvantaged in the grades they have achieved a second shot at the assessment”.