The National Union of Students (NUS) has asked universities to cancel non-essential exams and assessment.
Instead, students should be allowed to progress based on previous work and universities should provide an appeal process for those who need it.
NUS has argued that cancelling assessments for first and second years would reduce anxiety during an already uncertain time and would allow universities to focus their efforts on final year students.
NUS Vice President, Claire Sosienski-Smith, said: “In the current climate, student welfare must come first.
“Many students are unable to engage with their learning fully due to a variety of factors, including lack of equipment to support distance learning, caring commitments, stress, anxiety and precarious housing.
“We know that disabled students are being hugely impacted by the pandemic, facing the loss of both university-provided and NHS support, a lack of reasonable adjustments to access online teaching, as well as struggles with accommodation.
“We also want to see special consideration and flexibility given for students whose grades rest on final practical assessments, which would be impossible to conduct remotely.”
NUS has also laid out how students could complete their degree. Sosienski-Smith said: “For many final year students…the stakes are much higher, and it is vital that each of these students is given a choice on how to proceed.”
NUS’ suggested options for final year students are:
- Final year students could graduate with a grade based on results from prior assessment
- Or: For those that feel that a grade based on their current performance isn’t an adequate reflection of their ability, students should be allowed to finish with an open-book exam or flexible deadlines to be completed at home.
- Or: Some may wish to extend their time to complete their degrees, and could defer this term to take place in the autumn, with no cost to the student. This should be at their own discretion and made possible through self-certification
“It is vital that no student is disadvantaged by COVID-19,” the NUS Vice President said, adding that universities should provide a ‘safety net’ or ‘no detriment’ policy, which students around the country have also been calling for. Due to the diverse nature of education, Sosienski-Smith said, actions by universities cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach.
A spokeswoman for Universities UK, which represents 137 universities, has said ‘universities will try to be as accommodating as they can’.
A poll released on 7th April revealed that 36% of students thought that exams should be cancelled, with 23% of students feeling dissatisfied by online teaching.
Last modified: 12th April 2020