Bristol University confirms ‘safety net’ approach to final year grades affected by COVID-19 as students wait for more details


By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief, and Benjamin Salmon, Deputy News Editor

Bristol students received confirmation their final degree classification will not go down due to assessment results affected by COVID-19, but they could be waiting until 4 May for further details on how it specifically applies to their course.

In a letter released on their website on Friday 3 April 2020, Senior Management at the University of Bristol have clarified their policy on assessment as a ‘safety net approach’ following discussions with other Russell Group universities this week.

The policy states that the minimum degree classification will be calculated from work undertaken before 27 March 2020. If overall assessment marks after that date improve a student’s grades they will be included.

Different Schools within the University, however, will calculate the minimum grade differently. As well as previous assessed years, not including first year, a School may include one or more of TB1 assessments, a dissertation or project, and other work completed before 27 March into the minimum grade.

Schools have until 4 May to confirm specific details to their students.

It is similar to other universities, such as Exeter, Liverpool, Wawrick, and Cambridge, who have announced their safety net policies over the past week. Most, however, have used 15 March as the cut-off date for prior grade calculation.

Students must have an overall pass mark for their final year assessments, including those after 27 March. Part of the policy, however, allows students to retake assessments with no penalty in a second assessment period, most likely in August. Coursework extensions of up to 14 days will also be granted with no evidence needed.

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Bristol students who will continue studies into the 2020/2021 academic year have had assessments reduced as much as possible, but the policy for how their grades are calculated will be determined after the summer assessment period. Veterinary Science, Dentistry and Medicine students and International Foundation Programme (IFP) students will also receive separate communications on how they will be assessed.

The email sent out to all students from Pro Vice-Chancellor Tanya Jessop, set out an explanation for the policy: ‘This is the right, fair and compassionate thing to do given the current extraordinary circumstances.

‘We know that your lives have been disrupted, you may have concerns about family, friends and your own wellbeing, and that the prospect of sitting exams and undertaking assessments is adding to the pressure of daily life.

‘We are fully committed to creating the conditions that will allow you to complete your degree and support you through this challenging time.

‘We are committed to maintaining the value of your degree from Bristol. We want you to be confident that your degree has the same standing as your peers at similar universities and will stand you in good stead.’

Confirmation of this ‘safety net’ policy comes after a previous email from the University on how assessment would be affected from COVID-19 caused confusion among both students and staff.

The initial email only confirmed that there would be ‘no detriment’ to students’ grades in the months forthcoming though did not say whether this meant current degree averages would be protected through a ‘safety net’ mechanism.

Featured image: University of Bristol

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