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University outlines new 'safety net' measures

The University has outlined an 'assessment support package' in place of the conventional safety net that was introduced last year.

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The University has outlined a new assessment support package for 2021, in order to ‘safeguard’ student achievements.

Unlike last year’s safety net, which relied on previous University assessment results to calculate a safety net mark, the new ‘safety net’ will take the form of measures that will attempt to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on students’ results, the University branding it a ‘safety net by other means’

The main features of the support package include no longer requiring evidence for exceptional circumstances affecting assessment (ECA) policy applications, removing some red tape for those requiring extensions. The University will review the performance of students this year against previous cohorts to ensure that the pandemic does not have a detrimental impact on results across the board.

This year’s marks will also be reweighted for those in second year and above so that this year’s results will have less of an impact on overall degree performance. If marks for the 2020-21 academic year are worse than a students’ performance in other years, the weighting will be halved.

First years will be offered ‘significantly more generous’ resit possibilities, to aid their progression into second year. Usually, students are only able to resit 50 credits where their marks were below 30, but now they will be able to retake up to 90 credits regardless of the initial mark obtained.

The grade adjustments that were made for postgraduate students on the 2019/2020 academic year will also be extended, meaning that merits and distinctions will be calculated based on the strongest of either the taught independent study module or the credit weighted average of taught modules.

Commenting on these new measures, YUSU Academic Officer Matt Johnstone said that while these measures make York one of the first Russell Group universities to introduce safety net measures this year, “it doesn’t mean these measures are perfect and we want to work with other SUs to ensure lasting support for students”.

Whilst the University is the first Russell Group institution to announce safety net measures, other universities across the country have already announced measures. For example, Leeds Beckett University, as reported by The Tab, have announced that their “‘safety net’ means, in summary, that undergraduate students will progress or achieve an award, based on your best 60 credits (with equivalents for taught postgraduates) and that ‘Category A’ extenuation will automatically apply to all students without the need for you to apply for mitigation.” This measure is clearly very different from York’s, and is more like the actual ‘safety net’ used last academic year, providing students with the option to use their best 60 credits as a ‘safety net’.

Matt Johnstone, YUSU Academic Officer, further commented on the new measures. He stated that "It’s been a long battle for these measures and your support has been vital"

Following the recent lockdown announcement, YUSU President Patrick O’Donnell said that:
“I am proud that students and Union officers are leading the way for change at York together through petitions and lobbying University leaders. We will continue this fight nationally to see meaningful action on students' incomes, rents and tuition fees, through engaging local Members of Parliament and Government Ministers at every opportunity."

The issue of rent reimbursement is still under discussion at the University. YUSU have commented that: “We've asked the University to look to refund all on-campus rents for the duration of students being unable to return due to Government guidance. We expect a response from them early next week.”

Their statement went on to say that “this is on top of the initial guarantee last term from the University to refund three weeks worth of rent.”

YUSU have also said that the Emergency Student Support Fund (ESSF) “is being reopened as soon as possible, and will put tens of thousands of pounds directly into students' pockets”, and that they are “also directly lobbying Government Ministers and local MPs in York to raise issues surrounding incomes directly and call for meaningful action on refunding rents for students who are delayed back to York - both students on and off campus.”

Carly Precious, YUSU Community and Wellbeing Officer commented on this, stating that they “are looking into how we can support students off-campus and will be encouraging landlords to be flexible where possible. We have already encouraged major letting agencies in York to refrain from rushing students into signing into rental agreements. We continue to work with other students' unions across the country to directly pressure the Government for specific and targeted funding to protect students' incomes and to address the issue of rents."

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