Bristol University announces academic mitigations for 2021 final-year undergrad and postgrad students


By Megan Evans, News Editor

The University of Bristol has today released its academic mitigations package for 2021 final-year undergraduate and postgraduate students.

A university-wide email has been sent to outline Bristol’s mitigations process for students set to graduate this summer.

The undergraduate package is applicable to the majority of final year students and modules, and includes two new elements: the ‘Cohort Exclusions Mark’ and the ‘Best of Four Classifications.’

For all students, the university stresses that ‘what you need to do to get your degree is the same,’ meaning students must still pass all units and earn enough credits.

Mitigations procedures will then be applied in order to make marks comparable with other years and universities.

The Cohort Exclusions Mark will compare the pattern of marks achieved by previous final-year cohorts to see if 2020/21 graduating students have underperformed in comparison.

If there is a marked difference between a result achieved this year versus a non-COVID-19 year, the university ‘will consider an alternative version of your degree average that does not include the unit or units.’

The ‘Best of Four Classifications’ procedure calculates four possible average outcomes for every student, using a specific combination of marks that count towards the degree award.

These combinations are as follows:

Normal programme mark: all unit marks, so all of a student’s individual performances count
2019/20 Safety Net Mark: all unit marks excluding any units outside a student’s 2019/20 safety net
Cohort Exclusions Mark: all unit marks excluding units covered by this year’s cohort exclusions
2019/20 Safety net and Cohort Exclusions Mark: all unit marks excluding:
• any units outside a student’s 2019/20 safety net and,
• any units covered by this year’s cohort exclusions

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Almost all students will be awarded the best possible outcome from these combinations, with rare exceptions. Exceptions may only be necessary if an awarding body requires a specific unit result in the degree classification, or if there is too little evidence to form a clear judgement in individual cases.

The university ‘expect[s] exceptions will be rare.’

All undergraduate students in their final year in 2020/21 and gaining classified awards will be eligible for these mitigations.

Non-modular courses in Health Sciences (Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Sciences) are not eligible and the School of Law is using a modified version.

Students are automatically eligible for cohort exclusions once all required assessments have been completed.

Students are not able to choose for themselves which of their units will be excluded. The university explains that ‘If more than one of your units in 2020/21 is identified as being excluded, you cannot select which one (s) of them will apply to you.

‘The system is a cohort-level mitigation to help ensure your cohort's performance is comparable with previous years. The fairness of the system relies on the same action being applied to everyone.

‘It is not designed to take account of impacts on individual performance or base your classification on your top marks alone.

‘If your individual performance has been impacted by coronavirus in ways which are specific to you, or by other factors,’ the university encourages reporting this through the extenuating circumstances process.

‘The end result of our system cannot be a lower classification. Every student will receive a classification at least as good as that which they would have received if the system had not been in place.’

For postgraduate students, the ‘Cohort Exclusions Mark’ is largely the same, however it is only applicable to taught units, as opposed to ‘any research unit, due to the essential contribution they make to our postgraduate awards.’

The ‘Best Classification’ mitigation ‘will calculate at least two possible taught unit weighted averages for every student eligible for an award. Each average uses a specific combination of the units that contribute to your degree:’

Normal taught component mark: all taught unit marks, so all of a student’s individual performances count
Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark: all taught unit marks excluding those covered by this year’s cohort exclusions

Further mitigations apply for students who took units last academic year 2019/20, who were offered a ‘safety net.’ These students will also be considered for:

2019/20 Safety Net Taught Component Mark: all taught unit marks excluding any units outside a student’s 2019/20 Safety net.
2019/20 Safety Net and Taught Component Cohort Exclusions Mark: all unit marks excluding:
• any units outside a student’s 2019/20 safety net, where this is relevant to their programme and mode of study
• any taught units covered by this year’s cohort exclusions

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All postgraduate students gaining a classified award are eligible, but must show ‘clear evidence of student achievement’ by earning the required number of credits for their course.

The university is also implementing a new ‘secondary rule’ to postgraduate degrees:

‘Once we have applied the cohort and individual mitigations which are relevant to your case, we will apply the secondary rule to students who are within 1% of the pass/merit or merit/distinction borderline.’

Regarding non-final year students, the email from the university states that ‘If marks you achieve this academic year contribute to your degree classification in later years, please be assured that the University will review the marks for every unit at the end of this year and will take any action we need to, to make sure that future graduates’ results are as secure as every year.’

Students can read the full details of the university’s academic mitigations package for undergraduate and postgraduate studies, by accessing the relevant page on the university’s website HERE.

Featured Image: Epigram / Cameron Scheijde

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