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The Vice-Chancellor Graham Galbraith writes with an update on new measures being put in place to support students during the upcoming assessment and exam period:

We are currently living in a very different and often challenging situation, during this pandemic, which obviously has an impact on our University community in many ways.  Students are at the heart of all we do at the University of Portsmouth, and I and my senior team have been working closely with the Students’ Union, listening to their representation.  Alongside this we have been carefully reviewing the feedback and comments from students, and in some cases parents, who have raised concerns and questions about our approach during this time.

As a University we are committed to ensuring our students are not disadvantaged by the current situation.  The combination of our current practices that support student achievement, combined with the new measures we are introducing, provide a series of no detriment practices that will ensure no student is disadvantaged as a result of the current circumstances.

Wherever possible, we have already removed the need for assessments and exams from students, reducing the required workload.  

Additionally, to support students undertaking remaining assessments, we have introduced new measures such as extending deadlines across most of our assessments.  

Likewise, we have both extended and simplified our policy and procedures that allow students to seek individual support for personal circumstances during this time.  For example, a student who needs additional time in excess of extensions can have this granted.  Students who need to undertake employment, or students who  have issues with their computer equipment can also gain extra time, or if necessary push their assessment back to a later date without detriment.  

We have enabled students to be able to progress into the next year, even if they have not been able to complete their assessments from this year, to ensure they are not disadvantaged and that they can undertake those assessments at a later date.  All of these new measures give personal support to students and a safety net, for those who are encountering difficulties during this time.

We have also made certain that our Boards of Examiners are able to fully implement the raft of measures at their disposal to ensure that our academic standards and integrity are maintained, while ensuring no student is disadvantaged by the current circumstances.

For example, Examination Boards are able to look at a student’s marks and determine if their assessments taken at the end of the year are out of line with those taken earlier in the year.  If this is the case, an Exam Board can disregard the later marks and determine a module mark based on the averages obtained prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For final year students on undergraduate programmes, an Exam Board can determine a degree classification through multiple ways that are not necessarily based solely on your final assessments.  This ensures no student is disadvantaged.  

When considering the measures we are introducing, we have also looked at the approaches of other institutions who have put in place a ‘no detriment’ or ‘safety net’ policy. I’m confident that the package of measures that we have are as good as, if not better, than many of these other policies, and that the University of Portsmouth is supporting our students by being more generous and flexible than many universities. 

What we have developed, after listening to student and parent concerns relating to specific issues, are a series of no detriment practices that uphold our academic standards while ensuring that no student is disadvantaged by the current situation.

It was a thrill to see our research on plastic-eating enzymes winning the Times Higher Education Award for Research Project of the Year. I am so proud that the outside world is starting to recognise the important research that takes place at Portsmouth.

Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor