The open letter was published in response to a recent Russell Group announcement that there would be no safety net based on previous summative assessment for this year’s examsLouis Ashworth

The Cambridge Student Union (SU) presidents, Ben Margolis and Aastha Dahal, have signed an open letter from Russell Group universities’ student unions which was published yesterday (11/01). The letter, addressed to the Russell Group Chief Executive and Vice Chancellors, demands that the universities revise their current policy towards assessment and grading, which does not include a safety net for graduating students.

This letter was published following a statement from the Russell Group of universities that there would not be a no-detriment policy implemented, as there was in 2020, for students this year.

According to the statement, the Russell Group has declined to implement a similar policy because last year’s exams did not take place as usual, meaning grades could not reasonably be based on them. Instead finalists will be assessed based on methods “specifically designed for this academic year to ensure that they are robust in the light of the pandemic”

Last year’s policy meant that no graduating student would receive a mark lower than the one they achieved in their 2019 exams, while first and second year exam scripts would be given feedback rather than receive a class, in order to mitigate against the disruption of exams and teaching being moved online at short notice.

Citing the “unnecessary anxiety” caused by the current policy, the open letter has requested that universities make allowances for students’ inability to “access certain libraries, resources, and study spaces that are necessary for many students to succeed academically” by implementing a no-detriment safety net policy similar to last year’s. 


Mountain View

University rules out ‘no detriment’ policy for 2021 exams

The letter acknowledged the difficulty of individualising data when many students did not sit typical end-of-year exams in the last academic year, but asked universities to recognise the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all students by providing a “level playing field to demonstrate their academic achievements” through safety-net policies.

The letter sets out five key demands. Firstly, it asks that universities “individually and clearly publish what mitigations they are putting in place for students”. Secondly, noting that “one policy does not automatically address the needs of all students”, the letter demands that universities “demonstrate how any policies implemented will take into account the different needs of all students”.

It also requests that universities “allow students to self certify for mitigating circumstances” in order to “remove the burden of proof from students.” The letter further demands that “best practice” be used across the sector, including ideas such as giving less weight to the 2020/21 academic year in the overall classification calculation or removing penalties for late submissions. 

The letter’s final demand is that “any policy be co-developed with Student Officers and academic representatives as student representation is vital for any policy created by universities.”

Varsity has contacted the Cambridge Student Union for comment.