Students Staff
University of Essex

April 22, 2020

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

As we enter the summer assessment period, we have been thinking hard about how we can support you at a very difficult time and we have agreed and launched a ‘no detriment’ approach. Madeline Eacott, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), tells us more.

Some students have told me you are anxious about what this might mean for you and your circumstances. So I wanted to provide you with reassurance that whatever your circumstances, whatever your course, you are in our thinking and the approach applies to you. I want to start by outlining the principles of our approach and the values that underlie our thinking. This means that if we have a circumstance that is not completely covered in our guidance or FAQs, you can be sure that we will apply our principles to ensure the fairest outcome for you.

Principles of our ‘no detriment’ approach

Principle 1: Student success is at the heart of our thinking

We understand that these have been difficult times for you and we want to support you to succeed to the best of your ability. We recognise the difficult circumstances and know that you may not be at your best at the moment. We will take this into account to give you every opportunity to fulfil your potential to succeed.

Principle 2: Our courses offer a high quality transformative education

We want to recognise your achievements by providing you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning so that you can graduate with pride. But if now is not the right time for you to demonstrate your learning, we understand and we will provide you with other opportunities when the time is right, without any penalty.

Our no detriment approach applies to everyone on a taught course at Essex, whether undergraduate or postgraduate, whether you are in your first year of study with us or final year. We may not yet have the answer to every question you may have at the moment but you can rely on these principles to be confident that we are seeking the best outcome for you.

What no detriment means for everyone:

  1. If you can’t take your alternative assessment as timetabled, for any reason, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  2. If you take an assessment but feel that under the current circumstances, you are not at your best, no detriment: we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.
  3. If your year group as a whole perform more poorly on your module than we would expect based on the last three years of students on that module, no detriment: we will consider the marks to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.
  4. The Board of Examiners will consider the situation of every student based on their results and ensure that the pandemic situation does not disadvantage them, no detriment.

Not yet having met the learning outcomes

We know that some of you are concerned because you have not taken, or passed, assessments in your modules earlier in the year, that have allowed you to demonstrate the full range of your learning. We describe this as not yet having met the learning outcomes. If this is you, the opportunity to take the assessments during the summer term enables you to demonstrate your achievements and to meet the learning outcomes. I want to assure you that our no detriment approach also applies to you. While we want you to take assessments to demonstrate your learning, we will apply the no detriment approach above, particularly point 3. In this way, we will ensure that undertaking assessment during this difficult situation does not disadavantage you and you will achieve as well as previous year groups who did not face the difficulties you have had. If you feel that the current situation has impacted you beyond those experienced by your year group as a whole, you can submit an extenuating circumstances form to explain, and the Board of Examiners will take this into account for your individual marks as well as any adjustment they may make to marks of the whole year group.

Help and support for you

We know this is a difficult time for you but although we cannot be together at our campuses, we are still here to help and support you. If you have any other questions about your assessments, please check our FAQs online or contact the professional services team in your Department or School. We have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide information on the support available and they are updated regularly. For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton campuses can be contacted by phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

Remember that we want you to succeed and are here to support you.

Madeline Eacott

PVC Education



April 16, 2020

Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about the measures we’re taking to support you to succeed, to progress to the next stage of your studies or graduate this summer. Whatever your circumstances, you will not be disadvantaged in this by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In previous updates, I have explained why we are continuing with assessment during the summer term. We are committed to our students’ success and want to provide you with opportunities to demonstrate your learning and to continue and complete your programmes of study. While the methods of assessment may have changed, you will still only be assessed on the content of your modules that you have been able to study this year.

The revised examination timetable was published on Monday 6 April. While you are expected to undertake the assessment set out in your timetable in the same way that you would have been expected to sit the exams that were planned before the COVID-19 pandemic started, we genuinely recognise the difficult circumstances that you are facing. We want to enable you to demonstrate your learning, but we also recognise that you might have been significantly affected by the pandemic and you might not be able to give of your best. You may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or may find it difficult to access IT facilities, all of which might affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you adjust to the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends. We have a range of services available to you, including to support your mental health and wellbeing.

No detriment policy

Many of you have been asking about the University’s position on a ‘No Detriment’ Policy. We want to support you to succeed in these difficult times. We care about you and your future and I want to stress that we are fully committed to ensuring that the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect your academic performance unfairly. We have agreed an approach to ‘No Detriment’ that responds to the exceptional circumstances we are all facing together while recognising your needs as individual students and the different requirements of your modules and courses.

I want to use my update to highlight the main elements of our ‘No Detriment’ approach for you. Please read the full details of our alternative assessment and no detriment approach on our website, which will continue to be updated regularly.

Our approach will be applied for all taught students, both undergraduate and postgraduate, and all assessment you have or will undertake in this academic year, including coursework and dissertations, as well as the alternative assessment.

The ‘No Detriment’ policy applies to all departments and schools without exception and our policies will be applied, as they normally do, through the Board of Examiners to all taught students and all programmes of study.

If you can’t take your alternative assessment right now, for whatever reason, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty.

If your module cohort as a whole performs more poorly than we would expect based on the last 3 years of students taking that module, the Board of Examiners will consider the marks and take action to ensure that you are not disadvantaged.

Many of you will have already completed a number of pieces of assessed work and coursework during your modules. These will be used by the Board of Examiners to determine if you have already met the learning outcomes for the module. Where this is the case, the alternative assessment that you undertake during the summer term cannot reduce your overall module mark. You do not need to check whether you have met the learning outcomes and you are not required to provide evidence. This will be determined by the Board of Examiners, as a result of the assessment you have or will undertake.

Some of you may be concerned because you have not taken or passed assessments in your modules earlier in the year that have allowed you to demonstrate the full range of your learning (the “learning outcomes”). While you do need to take the alternative assessment to demonstrate your achievements, I want to assure you that our ‘no detriment’ approach also applies to you. If you take an assessment but feel that under the current circumstances, you are not at your best, we will offer you another opportunity with no penalty. We have strengthened and streamlined our extenuating circumstances processes to ensure that we identify and support all students who experience or have experienced difficulties this year with assessment. More information on the process is being finalised now and will be published very soon.

All decisions by the Board of Examiners will take into account the impact of the pandemic and you will not be disadvantaged by the difficulties created by COVID-19.

Student Support Services

We continue to be focused on ensuring your success remains our priority and we want to support you. If you have any questions about your course or modules, please contact the professional services team in your Department or School.

For specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk.

We have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide a wealth of information on support available and they are updated very regularly.

Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

We know this continues to be a tough time for you and we are always here to help. I will ensure you are updated regularly, but please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels. As ever, support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.



April 3, 2020

Supporting you to succeed

Our Academic Registrar, Richard Stock, tells us more about how we’re planning to keep you informed throughout the vacation and how we’re doing everything we can to help you succeed. 

I know this is a difficult time for everyone – especially our students and I wanted to provide you with the latest information and to say that I will keep you informed throughout the vacation period. We want to do everything we can to help you succeed and below I set out some key pieces of information related to:

  • Facilities on our campuses during the vacation
  • How we can support you
  • An update on summer assessment and exams
  • Postponement of Graduation 2020
  • University accommodation
  • Changes affecting international students and international travel
  • The new NHS volunteering scheme
  • Access to our support services

In addition, we have created a dedicated set of COVID-19 webpages, which provide a wealth of information on support available and they are updated very regularly.

Staying on our campuses during the vacation 

For our students staying on our campuses, they remain open and we are working hard to ensure they continue to be the welcoming, inclusive communities that you can call home. We have food outlets that are open and study spaces are available for use. On the Colchester Campus, our Information Office is staffed 24 hours a day to provide support to you.

How we can support you

  • I know this is a difficult time and we have a range of wellbeing services available to support you. We have also created some great online activities to minimise social isolation.
  • The Government have confirmed that eligible students will continue to receive maintenance payments on the scheduled dates, but I know that some of you will face financial hardship over the coming weeks and months as a result of the pandemic. To respond to this, we have quickly revised the ways in which our hardship fund operates, opening it up to all students experiencing hardship and making it as easy and straightforward as possible to apply for support.

Summer Assessment and Exams

I wrote to you on 16 March with details of changes to our exams and assessment this summer. Since then, we have worked hard behind the scenes to confirm the new arrangements and the new exams timetable will be published by 4pm on Monday 6 April.

  • I know that many of our students are anxious about the forthcoming assessment period. You may have caring or childcare responsibilities, other personal commitments, or worries about access to IT facilities that you believe will affect your academic performance. The pandemic itself may be causing you to worry as you adjust to the implications of social distancing and protecting yourself and your family and friends. If you have any questions about the assessment methods for your modules, please could you contact your Department/School. They can also advise you on revision or other academic support.
  • You may want to access our academic skills support. There are webinars and individual support sessions provided by the Skills for Success team. Events are bookable via CareerHub and more information about the support available can be found on our academic skills pages. We are here to help.
  • We want to support you to succeed and have agreed that, where your marks achieved during your modules this year demonstrate that the learning outcomes have been met, undertaking the alternative assessment can only improve your module mark and there will be no disadvantage to your marks. We have agreed a number of changes to our assessment policies that are designed to safeguard academic standards while providing flexibility to respond to the exceptional circumstances that you are facing this year in undertaking your assessments, including for those of you whose circumstances mean you are unable to undertake the assessment at the moment. We are therefore streamlining the extenuating circumstances and exam absence notification processes to ensure that we capture and support all students who have struggled. More information and guidance will be published with the exams timetable.

Graduation

On 30 March, I wrote to all students who are expecting to graduate in 2020 with news that we have taken the very painful decision to postpone our summer 2020 graduation ceremonies. We know that our graduation ceremonies are the highlight of the University’s academic year – and even more importantly, the culmination of our graduates’ hard work and an important opportunity to celebrate with friends and family. Please be assured we will provide our graduates with an opportunity to celebrate as soon as we can but we are not currently in a position to confirm new dates. All those of you eligible to graduate this summer will have your awards conferred as expected and access to your certificates and transcripts this summer. Please could you contact graduation@essex.ac.uk if you have any questions.

Accommodation

For our students who are living on campus, the UK Government’s advice is that you should stay where you are and not attempt to travel. Our campuses remain open but some of you will continue your teaching and assessment remotely for the Summer Term and may not choose to return to your University accommodation after the Easter break. Even if you have already left, you can be released from your accommodation contract from 1 April 2020. Please could you complete this online form and we have published guidance on our website.

International Students and International travel

The Home Office has updated their visa guidance to provide greater certainty for international students currently unable to return home due to COVID-19. If your visa is due to expire or has already expired but you cannot leave because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19, you will not be regarded as an overstayer or suffer any detriment in the future. If you cannot leave the UK due to travel restrictions or self-isolation and wish to stay in the UK over the long term, you are not currently required to return to your country of residence to apply for a future visa in a different category. Due to the current exceptional circumstances, the Home Office have also confirmed that distance learning is possible for existing Tier 4 students in the UK or those of you who have chosen to return overseas but wish to continue your current studies. Please could you contact our international services team for advice and guidance.

The Government has also issued guidance advising British nationals against all non-essential international travel. All UK students currently studying on programmes involving terms or a year abroad or working temporarily overseas are strongly advised to return to the UK now and we are here to help. The Essex Abroad team are available to answer any questions and provide support where needed: essexabroad@essex.ac.uk. Please do book a Skype call should you wish to contact the team in person.

National Health Service Volunteering

The Government have set up the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme to support the NHS and the care sector during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are interested in volunteering, you must be 18 or over and fit and well with no symptoms. The majority of tasks can be undertaken while social distancing and via telephone.

Student Support Services

We are focused on ensuring your student experience remains our priority and for specific queries relating to COVID-19, please email our dedicated team at covid19@essex.ac.uk. Our Student Services Hubs for ColchesterSouthend and Loughton are operating phone, email and live chat facilities; and our Library team can live chat via the website or you can email them enquiries at libline@essex.ac.uk.

We know this is a tough time and we are here to help. I will ensure you are updated regularly, but please keep an eye on your Essex email and all our usual communication channels. Support each other as much as you can and do not hesitate to get in touch if you need us.