Students express disappointment over the no-disadvantage guarantee
University of Exeter students have responded to the no-disadvantage guarantee with disappointment, confusion and a touch of humour.
The guarantee, emailed to students on 15 January, outlined three safety nets which the University developed following consultation with the Students’ Guild and student representatives.
The first point explains that exam boards will compare the average marks achieved by each year group with the equivalent marks from previous years. If there is any “significant deviation”, they will “apply appropriate adjustments.” Students for Academic Mitigation (S4AM) have argued that this is not a new policy.
It also reiterates that students can apply to defer assessments and go through the appeals process without providing evidence. The third policy, aimed at final year and postgraduate students, states that the University will be expanding their definition of the “borderline zone’’ which could lead to students being awarded a higher class of degree. They intend to clarify this definition in later emails.
Taking to social media, students posted memes to express their dissatisfaction with the guarantee. One described the email as “waffle” while others argued the University had mentioned protocols that had been introduced before or were always in place, even prior to the pandemic. Some comments also suggest that students did not fully understand the guarantee because of how it was written.
the email used words like ‘safety net’ and ‘no detriment’ without offering anything tangible to protect my gradesHistory student
Speaking to Exeposé, one student said, “I’m seriously disappointed with the no-disadvantage policy. I was particularly annoyed with how the email used words like ‘safety net’ and ‘no detriment’ without offering anything tangible to protect my grades. I’m a third year History student and practically need access to certain resources such as the library and archives to complete my degree adequately. Being offered no protection facing the difficulty of simply not being able to access adequate resources has really worried and upset me.
“I’m struggling – this period has been so tough on my mental health. Working in a space not designed for full time work has presented physical difficulties such as screen headaches and back pain.
“Students need some pressure off and the University could provide this through flexible deadlines, an easier system of appeals, changing the weighting of years or having bottom 30 credits not counting. [All of this] would make a big difference in genuinely helping students and showing the University cares.”
Another student said the email made them “so angry I was about to puke.” They continued: “it shows just how little respect the University has for us. It was so incredibly vague and had no mention of how they were going to demonstrate implementation.
“Personally, I think that reducing the weighting for final years would be a great help. My final year is worth twice my second year and four times my year abroad. Even if it was the same as my second year, it would take a load of stress off.”
On the borderline zone safety net, they said: “It’s far too vague. We need clear and well documented measures so there isn’t any room for the university to change the meaning at the last moment.”
I paid for tuition fees and am paying rent entirely out of my savings and I can’t say it’s money well spentPostgraduate student
Another student said, “I haven’t seen postgraduates mentioned in too many emails so it seems the University is ignoring us. We only study for one year, for starters, and we don’t have a class to compare ourselves with for no detriment. However, our grades this year have 100 per cent weight on our degree. We’re also last in line for in-person teaching. I paid for tuition fees and am paying rent entirely out of my savings and I can’t say it’s money well spent.”
A spokesperson for S4AM said, “It is clear to students that more needs to be done, and S4AM will continue to push until students are satisfied with the deal they are offered. With this in mind, the collaboration with the University is ongoing and we believe we are finally heading in the right direction. We are currently awaiting clarification and answers to questions raised in meetings and by students on our Google form.”
Penny Dinh, VP Education, said: “The work of Students for Academic Mitigation and our Student Representatives can’t be understated in lobbying the University to create lenient and supportive policies to protect student outcomes – the position we’re in now wouldn’t have been possible without the student voice and feedback being so prominent.
“I know that many students still have concerns and questions – we’re going to continue fighting to ensure those worries are eased and that students have the best support and policies in place. It’s so important you continue speaking to your Student Reps and giving feedback to us so that we can get the change that you want to see.”