• Oli Tufft

HMS No Detriment: Sinking Ship or Beacon of Hope? The University Response

Updated: May 4, 2020

With all that is going on at the moment, university students really are at the bottom of Bojo’s long and laborious list. And, rightly so. The students behind Letters from Mars are perfect examples of why we ought to be at the bottom of the pile. With two PPE students, a law student, a budding philosopher and a graphic designer there really is not a great deal that we cannot learn from our homes – dare I say our beds. Even so, there are only a handful of students who are making their way up a certain well-known creek with a lack of paddle. I am thinking mainly of the medics, the vets and the nurses (of course there are others who are badly affected).

Whatever our degree, the majority of 2nd and 3rd year students still have exams. This is clearly a logistical nightmare for the exam organisers and planners, and I think that they do deserve to be cut a rather sizeable amount of slack. Approaches differ from Uni to Uni, and it is fair to say that we do not constitute a particularly broad church. However, a prevailing approach from many universities, for 2nd years at least, is a ‘No Detriment’ policy. Put briefly, in some universities (Durham) this means that if students achieve a higher grade in 3rd year exams than they do in these 2nd year exams, then the 3rd year exams will count for 100% of your degree. In theory this means that you could choose to work only to pass 2nd year at minimal effort to yourself and hedge your bets with your 3rd year grades. This a minutely small price to pay in order to allow us to help the worst affected. In other universities (Liverpool) this means that you can only improve on your pre-pandemic grade. It is as though that grade has been banked. There are also exam deferrals available for those who are disproportionately affected. There are some other questions regarding if it is individual modules or averages that are to be considered and what the approach is with coursework though, again, these are so subjective re which university you ask.

Exams are one of the biggest sources of stress and anxiety for students, so hopefully this will help alleviate some of those anxieties. It can be very difficult to stay focused and revise at the moment and that is exactly why these policies have been put in place. At the same time, studying can be an excellent way to keep busy at the moment, between watching endless Harry Potter re-runs and being more excited for a walk than your dog. There are only so many lemon drizzle cakes you can make before you are morally obliged to become a charity bakery. It seems that, despite initial woes and worries, most universities have done well by their students and because of this, we ought to be appreciative.

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