Opinion | A no-detriment policy may have its downfalls, but we still need one this year

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By Eleanna Giakoumi, Second Year, Law

When the no-detriment policy was introduced last year, I remember feeling taken aback. I never thought that the university would be so understanding of the situation as to give us such protection with regard to our grades.

Now we find ourselves in the same stressful circumstances. In fact, this time around it might be even worse, yet the University has decided to offer very minimal protection compared to last summer.

The Russell group stance is that last year’s safety net policies were an ‘emergency measure’ and that this year our courses have been specifically designed in a way that was compatible with blended learning. A no-detriment policy probably seems redundant to them, but are our claims being dismissed for valid reasons?

Of course, there’s the idea that a safety net policy would devalue our degrees, as our final degree grade would not be calculated the same way as previous years.

In light of the recent revelation that due to last year’s safety net policies, a record 1 in 3 university students gained a first, employers are undoubtedly going to take account of the year we graduated in order to figure out whether our degree grade was awarded with or without academic mitigations.

In my field, which is law, most firms expect at least a high 2:1 for graduate jobs. In fields like this, where employment is heavily reliant upon high grades, it is understandable why no one would want a diluted degree which is valued less by employers.

Many students are still struggling with the mental health ramifications induced by the pandemic

Surely, we should also consider that not everyone has been impacted by the pandemic in the same way. Having blanket mitigations would only maintain the gap between those who have been disadvantaged by the pandemic and those who haven’t, especially given that not all faculties have adapted to the situation in the same way.

Giving everyone a grade boost seems inequitable as it would only sustain any potential grade gap rather than support the students who actually need it in order to get a grade that is reflective of their work. Given the varied impact that the pandemic has had on students, it would not seem right to offer everyone the same level of protection.

However, we have failed to take account of the fact that university is not meant to be online. While it is true that the staff have worked hard to make the course as accessible as possible, many students are still struggling with the mental health ramifications induced by the pandemic.

We are continuously struggling with the level of support available

Moreover, the current situation is arguably a lot worse than it was in March. We have found ourselves in lockdown after lockdown, our university experience has been reduced dramatically, we are continuously struggling with the level of support available, and yet despite all this, we are still expected to produce the same quality work.

The slightly revised Extenuating Circumstances policy can, in most cases, only offer more time and is not the protection we were expecting from the University. Just a quick look around Bristruths and one can see the numerous requests for a safety net policy.

If student opinion within the community is not enough, the success of two petitions can speak for itself. A petition by the SU for the introduction of academic mitigations for January exams surpassed 1,000 signatures, while the one calling for the re-introduction of a safety net policy has amassed more than 4,500.

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According to the Office for National Statistics, almost two-thirds (63%) of students indicated that their well-being and mental health had worsened since the start of the autumn 2020 term.

The current level of protection offered is certainly not enough in my opinion, and it only shows how detached the university management is from its students.

Although a safety net policy may have its downfalls, it seems to me to be a lot more suitable than what is currently in place, especially given that students are now clearly struggling even more than last year.

Featured Image: Epigram / Molly Pipe


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