Students working in the University Library

How we're recognising the impact of the pandemic on your assessments

Extensions, adjustments to marks, and extenuating circumstances

The ongoing Covid pandemic may unfortunately impact some students' ability to complete their assessments as hoped.

To recognise this, in April 2020 we introduced what's known as 'no detriment' practices, to make extra allowances for students affected, and to ensure no student is disadvantaged by the pandemic.

These changes are in addition to our normal extenuating circumstances process for anyone experiencing personal issues that affect their ability to complete their assessments.

No detriment - a quick guide

The University already has processes to protect you against being disadvantaged due to issues outside of your control. In many areas we have extended these powers even further to reflect the impact of Covid.

The 'no detriment' practices in place to help undergraduate and taught postgraduate students with your assessments during the pandemic include:

1. Changes to Assessments

We've adjusted assessment requirements for all modules to ensure they appropriately reflect the changing environment. 

2. Extensions to deadlines

Our course teams have already reviewed upcoming assessment deadlines and, where there's a specific requirement to do so, the submission deadlines have been extended.

We'll continue to consider deadline extensions in light of the changing learning and assessment environment.

3. Extenuating Circumstances

We've extended the criteria for Extenuating Circumstances to reflect ways in which Covid may affect your assessments (see below).

We've also simplified our policy and procedures that allow you to seek support for your personal circumstances during this time.

4.Module Assessment Boards

We've worked to ensure that Boards have the flexibility and discretion on awarding your marks. They'll make decisions based on your overall performance, not just your latest set of assessments, and might extrapolate or moderate marks.

For example they could revise a lower marked assessment if it's out of line with your previous results for the module.

5. Trailing Modules

Students who have been affected by the pandemic can progress into your next year and complete your outstanding modules at a later date (see below).

This is even if you've not been able to complete your assessments from the current year - to ensure that your progression on your course isn't affected by the pandemic.

Before your assessments: changes to reflect Covid

In the run up to the assessment period, we adjusted assessment requirements for all modules across the University, to ensure they appropriately reflect the changing environment. 

Our course teams reviewed assessment deadlines and, where there was a requirement to do so, the submission deadlines have been extended. The normal extension length is 5 days - however, for some assessment types the extension may be longer, as it takes into account the nature of the piece of work.

We'll continue to consider deadline extensions in light of the changing circumstances.

During your assessments: Extenuating Circumstances

If you have difficulties with your health or personal life which have left you unable to attend, complete or submit an assessment, the Extenuating Circumstances process recognises this and your assessments can be adjusted accordingly.

We've extended the Extenuating Circumstances criteria that have always been available, to also recognise the below impacts of Covid:

New Covid-related extenuating circumstances criteria

  • A student has Covid-19 symptoms and is following government advice to self-isolate may submit extenuating circumstances to self-certify for up to fourteen days, and may self-certify more than once within the time period permissible for extenuating circumstances. The late hand in period remains at 14 days (10 working days);
  • A student who is self-isolating and unable to attend campus to engage in core practical learning activities may submit extenuating circumstances to self-certify for up to fourteen days, and may self-certify more than once within the time period permissible for extenuating circumstances. The late hand in period remains at 14 days (10 working days);
  • Where a student is undertaking an assessment remotely (not on University premises), they may submit extenuating circumstances for computing difficulties;
  • Where a student is affected by local authority Covid-19 restrictions, a student who works full-time or part-time in one of the professions defined by the government as a key profession in the affected local area, they may submit extenuating circumstances for work commitments. In these circumstances, the late submission period may be longer than 14 days but must be proportional to the impact of the circumstance on a student's ability to study. Any late submission periods beyond the defined 14 days are to be approved by the Course Leader.
  • If a student is affected by local authority Covid-19 restrictions, a student with additional caring responsibilities (for example where a school closes, and their child is now at home) may submit for extenuating circumstances.

How to apply for Extenuating Circumstances

If you've been affected by Covid in the above ways, or have experienced other personal issues during your assessments, such as a bereavement or other illness, you may be able to apply for Extenuating Circumstances.

To apply for and see the progress of your Extenuating Circumstances request, use Your Student View.

Examples of how Extenuating Circumstances might work

Here are some examples of Covid-related extenuating circumstances and how students would be supported to continue with their assessments.

Example 1: Technical difficulties

James is scheduled to start his online exam at 9.00am. James switches on his laptop only to realise that his internet provider is having technical difficulties and he has no connection. The internet issues last for most of the day and the exam period ends without James being able to take part.

James knows that he is covered for IT issues affecting exams and assignment submissions and immediately submits an extenuating circumstance. James instead takes the exam later in the referral/deferral period.

Example 2: Self isolation due to Covid exposure

Mary is due to submit her project proposal. A week before the hand in date for the project proposal, one of her flatmates  suspects they have coronavirus and the whole flat self isolates as a precautionary measure. Mary submits an online ECF which is accepted. This would allow Mary ten working days from the hand in date to have any penalty lifted.

Once the self isolation period has ended, Mary returns home to her family. Upon her return, her brother is showing symptoms of coronavirus and once again Mary self isolates.

As Mary has previously self isolated, she emails her School for advice both for the project proposal and for another module that she is undertaking in Teaching Block 2.

For the project proposal, she already has a valid ECF. If she is unable to submit the work within ten working days of the original hand in date, she will be given a Deferral. This will be a piece of work that she must undertake in the Referral period.  The piece of work will not be capped at 40%.

For the other module, she should submit an ECF. This would allow Mary ten working days from the hand in date to have any penalty lifted.  If she is unable to submit the work within ten working days of the original hand in date, she will be given a Deferral. This will be a piece of work that she must undertake in the Referral period.

Mary has two deferral assessments to do, which are both single pieces of coursework. She completes one but is unable to undertake the second due to illness. Mary submits another online ECF which is accepted.

The Board of Examiners considers Mary's profile and allow her to trail this module into the next academic year for no extra charge. The Board specifies that she will not have to attend classes, she only needs to undertake the assessment that she had not yet passed.

Example 3 Coursework Submission

Sara uses specialist software to produce her coursework for assessment, normally accessed from within the University. Sara is currently living off campus due to the Government lockdown and carrying on with her course online. Sara has had technical difficulties due to a lack of equipment at home and a poor internet connection and has had trouble accessing the software remotely.

Sara knows that she is covered for IT issues for producing coursework submissions and submits an extenuating circumstance. Sara submits her coursework within the late hand in period, 10 working days.

Had Sara not been able to submit her coursework within the late hand in period, she would be given a deferral in the referral period.

End of the academic year: adjustments to your marks

Once teaching and assessment is finished your marks go through two stages over the summer to be confirmed - the Module Assessment Boards and Boards of Examiners. 

Module Assessment Board 

The Module Assessment Board meetings look at your marks in each module that you undertook. Because of the pandemic, they will be looking at your results very carefully.

There are two things the Board can do - extrapolation and moderation:

1. Extrapolation

Extrapolation is where we look at your marks in other pieces of work you have done in a module and give you a mark based on what you have done already.

Example 1

If a student has to defer their second piece of coursework, we could extrapolate from the mark already achieved (56) in place of the deferred coursework, to give revised marks.

Before extrapolation
Coursework 1 Coursework 2 Total
50% of module 50% of module 100% of module
56 Deferred 28
After extrapolation
Coursework 1 Coursework 2 Total
50% of module 50% of module 100% of module
56 56 56


Example 2

In another example, we might average the two marks already achieved (50 and 70) to extrapolate a mark for the referred coursework.

Before extrapolation
Coursework 1 Coursework 2 Coursework 3 Total
25% of module 25% of module 50% of module 100% of module
50 70 10 35
After extrapolation
Coursework 1 Coursework 2 Coursework 3 Total
25% of module 25% of module 50% of module 100% of module
50 70 60 60

Module Assessment Boards will be encouraged to do as much as possible, even if there is only one other mark in the module. There may be reasons why the Module Assessment Board cannot do this but the Board will be asked to look at this for every module.

2. Moderation

Moderation is where we look at your marks and compare them to previous students on your course to see how much you have been affected.

We can then look at adjusting marks to reflect how much you have been affected compared to previous student performance in that module. This would normally be done for all students on that module. Where a module is being offered for the first time in this year, similar modules from last year will be used to moderate the marks.

Example 1

The exam from last year's course was replaced with a piece of coursework this year. The first piece of coursework would not be looked at as all the changes made by the University were after this had been submitted by students.

However, we'd expect that the second piece of coursework to be reviewed at as the average mark is much lower than the equivalent assessment in the previous year. A simple remedy would be to add 7 marks to all students to make up the deficit.

If the average mark for the second piece of coursework was higher than the examination average, extra marks would be unlikely to be added. So if the average for the second piece of coursework was 60%, no changes would be made.

Module averages 2020 Module averages 2021
Coursework average Exam average Total average Coursework 1 average Coursework 2 average Total
62 58 60 61 51 56
January May January May

There may be reasons why the Module Assessment Board can not do this but the Board will be asked to look at this for every module.

Board of Examiners

This is followed by the Board of Examiners. They review the module and courses and how they'll have been affected by the pandemic. They look at the whole range of your marks across all your modules and recommend progression and awards. The Boards will be guided by doing what is right by you, and maintaining academic standards for the award and adhering to regulations set by external professional bodies.

There are two things that a Board of Examiners can do:

1. Compensation

Compensation is where we look at all of your marks, and if you have failed some modules, we'll look at other modules you have passed and decide whether you have done enough to pass the level that you are on (or, if you are in the final year, if you may pass the course that you are on).

For this year, undergraduate students can be compensated in 40 credits at each level of the course (as part of our response to Covid-19, we have increased the compensation credit amounts at Level 5 and 6 from the 20 credits that are normally allowed). There is an overall limit of 60 credits of compensation for the entire course, so if you have previously been compensated before, you may not be eligible for the higher level of compensation.

The University has some criteria before you can be compensated:

  1. You must have had an attempt at the final assessment in the module (or have extenuating circumstances to explain why you did not).
  2. You must have achieved an average of 40% in all your modules for the year.
  3. If the module is a single module of 40 credits or more, you must achieve a mark of 30% in that module.

Each Board of Examiners can additionally add extra rules on top of this, so for example you must achieve a mark of 30% before they compensate any module.

Due to the exceptional circumstances, all Boards have been asked to review their own rules on compensation to ensure that students are not unfairly disadvantaged.

There may be reasons why compensation may not be given but the Board will be asked to look at this for every course.

2. Trailing modules but continuing course progression

A trailing module is one that has not been completed in the academic year, but which you can then carry over to the next academic year to study. These may include (but are not limited to):

  • modules where the professional body insists that there must be an examination
  • modules that involve a period of placement
  • modules where you have extenuating circumstances for a Deferral or Referral attempt

In each of these cases the Board of Examiners will consider your profile and make a decision on whether to allow you to trail modules into the next academic year.

When you trail a module into the next academic year, you would not normally have to attend classes, and will only have to attempt the assessments that you have not passed. Schools and Departments will aim to set these assessments as soon as possible in the new academic year.

Marking and feedback

A simplified mark verification process may be used, where 10% of all assessments are verified. This is for all modules, regardless of the module credit volume, and may replace double blind marking for major project modules and 100% verification where anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Other resources to help with assessments

University Library

Due to Covid, it might be difficult to get to the Library in person, but it doesn't mean you can't access the resources available. There are a number of services to help you get hold of the material you need, including Click and Collect, Postal Loans, Scan and Deliver and more. More information is available on the Library website.

Personal Tutors and MyPort Hubs

Your personal tutor is there to support you academically and personally during your studies speak to them to find you to other University support to help. You can also contact your Faculty's MyPort Hub for advice.

Academic Skills

If you need help with your assessments, you might find the below guides helpful:

The Academic Skills team can help with you questions on all types of study skills - contact them on academicskills@port.ac.uk

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