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Update regarding this year’s No Detriment policy


Published on 29th January 2021 at 15:11.

The University has not yet finalised the details of their No Detriment policy to us, although they have said that students can expect an update very soon. 
 
The University has said that it will not be the same as last year’s policy: Students will probably not be guaranteed a certain minimum grade based on past performance. This is partly because of government concerns about academic standards. As Sussex was one of the very first universities to announce a no-detriment policy, they could risk being accused of devaluing the quality of their degrees.
 
The ‘academic standards’ debate is a really frustrating one, especially in the context of very little government support for higher education as a sector OR for students, who have had a really terrible year. Many have had difficulties accessing their courses, even before we consider the increased anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic and constantly changing government guidance. Obviously, the best thing to do would be to give students - and Universities - the funds and support they need to improve access to education. This could have meant extra seminars in the summer, or more tutoring support for instance. But instead, students have been left desperate and isolated, such that no detriment policies are the only thing they feel they can hope for. 
 
In terms of what the University has suggested they are doing with no detriment so far, these are the approaches they have said they are taking:

  • Individual-level support to those students going through particularly bad experiences, which are dealt with through Exceptional Circumstances (EC) claims. At the moment these can offer a 7 day extension to a deadline, or a student can put in for ‘impairment’ (if they were able to hand their work in, but circumstances beyond their control affected its quality), or they can change summer resits into ‘sits’ (which are not capped at 50% as resits would be).
     
  • Course-level and module-level adjustments, if students on a particular course or module as a whole are performing worse on average than in previous years, to ensure students are not doing worse than usual.
     
  • Other adjustments and support which they will confirm in due course. These could include being more lenient with minimum pass marks for Foundation Year and First Year students, and other adjustments. These details are still being finalised. 

 
We’ve been trying to influence the process from the outside, but have not had much direct input so far except through the SU’s Save Our Grades campaign and our informal discussions with University management. However, Diversity, Access and Participation Officer, Nehaal will be joining the Education and Students Continuity Group, which will resume meetings from next week, where the details of no detriment will be discussed. Please email Nehaal if you have information to contribute. 
 
We have also talked a lot with the University about the EC process at Sussex, which has issues that we have had detailed feedback from staff and students about. We want there to be changes put in place quickly to make ECs more flexible like they are at some other universities. Apparently, this will form part of the ‘Curriculum Review’, starting in March of this year, which students will be able to feed into. We hope changes can be implemented quickly.