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Bristol SU call for more academic mitigations after nearly all January exams move online

The Students' Union have responded to The University of Bristol's plan for the January exam period with a petition urging the University to take further action.

By Eve Bentley-Hussey, SU Correspondent

The Students' Union have responded to The University of Bristol's plan for the January exam period with a petition urging the University to take further action.

In their statement made on the SU website, the Bristol SU Officers criticised the University's Planned Policy for Extenuating Circumstances for not wholly protecting students.

The SU Officers Team did reference the University's initial response to the pandemic, praising especially the 'no detriment and safety net policy' and their treatment of A-level students.

Whilst the Officers are not asking for a repeat of these policies, they do not think that the new mitigations protect students in the face of the challenges impacting their education.

Instead, the Officer Team propose their own mitigations:

  • Ensure that those who have three or more 7-day exams in a week can automatically apply for extensions on one or all of them.
  • The same allowances for ECs as in the summer assessment period, which stated there was no need to provide evidence if you did not have any.
  • As with last year, students should not be required to submit evidence to defer their exams.
  • Mitigations should be put in place and publicised for the loss of Alternative Exam Arrangements for disabled students, with extensions being offered to students who want them.

The Officers have launched a petition to lobby the University to consider these changes which they are demanding.

The statement and demands set out by the SU came in response to the email sent to all students by Bristol University on 1 December, which explained the changes made to aid students during the exam period.

The changes, which the University ‘hope will support’ students, include giving students fewer exams than normal, with nearly all exams this year set to be online.

In the university-wide email, Tansy Jessop, The University of Bristol’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, acknowledged that TB1 has been ‘a challenging term’, and urged students seeking support to reach out to the University's Student Wellbeing Service.

‘Notably, there are far fewer exams than normal,’ Professor Jessop added, ‘and in nearly all cases exams will be online. Some students may have open-book assessments over seven-day time slots, others will be doing more coursework than exams or timed assessments.’

Students have also been asked to visit the extenuating circumstances webpage for further information.

In response to the SU’s specific demands, the University have said their approach ‘has been to provide fair and compassionate mitigations for students whose assessment in January has been affected by COVID-19’ and have said their ‘agreed mitigations are not dissimilar to the requests being made by the Students’ Union, balancing fairness, compassion and academic rigour, as outlined in our responses to each of the SU demands.’

The University have also explained the following:

  • COVID has been explicitly added to the Extenuating Circumstances policy in 20/21. This means that a student can present Extenuating Circumstances (ECs), without evidence if necessary, explaining the impact of any circumstances. This will avoid students taking multiple resits unnecessarily - instead they will be able to focus on preparing for their end of year examinations and assessments.
  • As with the summer assessment period, whereby there was no need to provide evidence for Extenuating Circumstances if a student did not have any, so too will students not have to provide evidence for the upcoming assessment period, with the University stating ‘we recognise that it is not always available’.
  • No student has more than three timed assessments (including exams) in any seven-day period. The University have said more than three to ensure that as many students as possible start TB2 without additional TB1 work. If a student’s timetable shows that they have more than three, they should tell their school office, who will make alternative arrangements for them, allowing extra time for one or more of the seven-day timed assessments.
  • No Alternative Exam Arrangements (AEA) for students with a disability have been lost, with exams still setting out the AEA time available.
  • Seven-day assessments will also guide students as to how much time should be spent on them. All students with AEAs will have time added to that. There are no extensions for seven-day papers as they count as exams; but these can be deferred, and Extenuating Circumstances submitted if a student encounters problems.
  • Finally, answering calls for students not to be required to submit evidence to defer their exams, the University have stated ‘it is already the case that students taking exams at Bristol are able to self-certificate which effectively defers their exams without medical evidence.’

On the situation as a whole, the University have said: ‘We can unequivocally reassure students that we will take into account individual circumstances and the impacts of COVID-19, while also operating our assessments in a way which enables students to complete this year’s studies on time.’

Changes made to assessment methods should be kept post-Covid
Face visors no longer made compulsory for in-person teaching

The assessment period will run from 18 to 29 January and the University will publish its exam timetables on 15 December.

Featured Image: Patrick Sullivan

Are you satisfied by the University's mitigations for the January exam period?

Students who wish to sign the SU Officer Team's petition can do so here.