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Are Warwick postgrads getting a fair deal over the no-detriment policy?

Amidst the Coronavirus crisis and the disruption it has caused to education, the no-detriment policy has been introduced by several universities to protect the yearly average of their students. While Warwick falls into the category of those institutions who have taken on this measure, it has failed to extend this policy to postgraduates.  

The pandemic continues to cause disruption to student life as well as generate widespread concern about its impact on the economy and society at large. The university has cancelled face-to-face teaching for the forthcoming term and is working on implementing online alternative assessments for second and third year students as part of its safety net policy.

The pandemic continues to cause a disruption to student life as well as generate widespread concern about its impact on the economy and society at large.

The question Warwick’s postgraduates are asking is why they are not getting the same treatment as undergraduates and their counterparts at other universities.

 

What is the no-detriment policy and how does it benefit students? 

This measure introduced by many universities ensures that under the current situation faced by students amidst the pandemic, the yearly average obtained in the year to date should not be lowered. As long as students get a pass in their upcoming assessments, their current average is protected, unless they obtain higher marks, which will allow them to improve it. 

The no-detriment policy ensures that under the current situation faced by students, the yearly average obtained in the year to date should not be lowered.

Universities have taken this decision to take account of the fact that COVID-19 can affect students and the outcome of their work in different ways, whether it be through being infected, having to care for a family member, limited resources or not having an adequate study space during the nationwide lockdown. 

COVID-19 can affect students and the outcome of their work in different ways.

How does no-detriment apply to Warwick students?

Following Warwick’s announcement of the no-detriment policy late last month, the university informed Post Graduate students via the MyWarwick forum that “whilst other arrangements to support you in the current difficult situations are being made, the safety net policy can regrettably not apply to PGT courses”. 

While undergraduate students are being granted this measure as they rely on “multiple years of marks”, the university declared that “there will typically be too few marks and too little other data available on PGT students’ progress to date. Most of our PGT courses span only twelve months and we have several start dates through the academic year. This makes it impractical to gather the data we would need to make any reliable benchmarking possible for PGT students in the same way as we will be able to do for undergraduates”. 

Despite Warwick University’s claims that the no-detriment policy is “impractical” for postgraduates, other UK universities have adopted this measure for all students. Amongst these are Exeter, Southampton, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Birmingham. The University of Exeter announced in a letter to its studentsWe are pleased to be able to let you know that we have extended the no detriment policy so that it includes all assessments submitted by undergraduate and taught postgraduate students in the 19/20 academic year”.

Despite Warwick University’s claims that the no-detriment policy is “impractical” for postgraduates, other UK universities have adopted this measure for all students.

The University of Birmingham, in addition to extending its non-detriment policy to postgraduate students, will only require its postgraduates to complete 140 credits as opposed to 180, due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. In their announcement of these measures, Birmingham University declared that “We know that these are unprecedented times and that this crisis has disrupted plans for revision and assessments, and made it difficult to concentrate. This is why our approach has been designed to ensure ‘no detriment’ and also ‘reduced pressure’ for you. Your wellbeing is our priority and we want you to be able to prioritise this too”. 

Given that several universities are taking steps to protect both their undergraduate as well as postgraduate students, PG’s have been left questioning why Warwick won’t do the same for them. An online petition on Change.org has been initiated by postgrads which calls for the university to “reverse this decision and offer us the same courtesy they have afforded undergraduates”. 

Given that several universities are taking steps to protect both their undergraduate as well as postgraduate students, PG’s have been left questioning why Warwick won’t do the same for them.

One student commented “It saddens me that during this difficult time the university has not extended the understanding they have shown for undergraduates to postgraduates as well. No other university providing the no-detriment policy has excluded postgraduates and the unequal treatment is appalling”. Students backing the petition are confused as to why undergraduates are benefitting from the university imposed safety net, while postgraduates are not. They have also highlighted that generally speaking, postgraduates have been impacted by the pandemic in more ways than undergraduates. 

Students backing the petition are confused as to why undergraduates are benefitting from the university imposed safety net, while postgraduates are not.

The petition claims that “like undergraduate students, postgraduate students are all under considerable stress, anxiety and may have situations at home that are preventing them from doing work”. One of the key issues pointed out by the campaigners is that “proportionately postgraduates are more mature students and thus many have more dependents at home, such as child-care and caring for more elderly family members”. 

Katie Webb, one of the students behind the petition stated “I feel that the university is adding to the stress we are already under and needs to do this in order alleviate our worries”. This is indicative of the extra stress and distractions post-graduate students might face in the wake of the pandemic, which could potentially have a detrimental impact on their studies. 

An additional concern highlighted by students is that the closing of universities during this pandemic has meant that they can’t access resources needed to complete their work, and are having to change their dissertation projects due to “a lack of access to core readings that are not E-books”. 

Many Warwick students also feel that not being exempt from the no-detriment policy puts them at a greater disadvantage in comparison to postgrads at other UK universities who they will be competing against. One student said  in the comment section of the Change.org petition that “many of us will be going on to compete for places for further study or jobs against students at other universities which have implemented a no-detriment policy and will be unfairly disadvantaged by Warwick’s refusal to do so”.

Many Warwick students also feel that not being exempt from the no-detriment policy puts them at a greater disadvantage in comparison to postgrads at other UK universities who they will be competing against.

Another factor troubling many, is the way in which the failure to implement the no-detriment policy for postgraduates will affect students with disabilities. On disability grounds, some students are only allowed to apply for a two week  extension, instead of four, putting them at an even greater disadvantage under such difficult circumstances. 

The Boar Features got in touch with Warwick for a comment on the matter. “The safety net under development for undergraduate students would not be suitable for postgraduate taught students due to the differences in study patterns.  The University is working in partnership with the Students’ Union to develop an alternative system that recognises the impact of Covid-19 on all of our postgraduate taught students and will be providing further details on this early next term”, the university stated. 

 The launch of the online petition by Warwick postgraduates is clearly indicative of their concern over the university’s no detriment policy, and how it could have far-reaching consequences for their studies and future careers. 

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