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Students prefer online assessments over cancellation amid coronavirus outbreak

A survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and YouthSight has found that students would prefer their assessments to continue online than to be cancelled.

Out of over 1000 undergraduates, 36% said the crisis should lead to the remaining assessments of the year to be cancelled, as opposed to 42% who wish for them to continue. 17% would prefer for them to be postponed.

A greater proportion of first-year students (44%) thought assessments should be cancelled, compared to second-year students (32%) or students in their third-year (31%).

5% of the group, who selected ‘other’, said they would prefer for exams to be replaced by essays or for a ‘safety net’ to be put in place, whereby their grades cannot be negatively impacted by any on-going assessments.

The majority of students (70%) felt the communication from their higher education institution on coronavirus had been ‘clear’ or ‘very clear’, as opposed to those who felt it had been ‘quite unclear’ or ‘very unclear’ (18%).

Just under half of students (49%) were satisfied with the online teaching which has replaced face-to-face teaching, compared to 23% who were dissatisfied.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU) said: “We need to provide support and safety nets so students are not disadvantaged by the coronavirus crisis.

“We want guarantees from universities that students who decide to appeal their results or resit exams can hold their university place while they go through that process,” she added.

Despite all the uncertainty, much remains the same. Two-thirds of students still want the opportunity to complete their assessments from afar

– Rachel Hewitt

HEPI also surveyed 500 university applicants. 29% of applicants feel less confident that they will get a place at their chosen university, compared to 20% who feel more confident. 46% felt equally confident.

For the majority (79%) of applicants, the pandemic had not impacted their university choice. Only 7% plan to change their first choice.

Just under half of applicants (46%) expect their predicted grades to reflect their final grade.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at HEPI, said that the results show universities are supporting students and applicants well during these difficult times, and few are dissatisfied with their institutions’ offerings.

“On admissions, it is clear applicants need greater certainty about what will happen to their university places.

“It is essential this group, who have already lost out on the end of their school experience, are not disadvantaged from getting into the university of their choice. The data shows this is a concern for a significant minority of applicants.

“Despite all the uncertainty, much remains the same. Two-thirds of students still want the opportunity to complete their assessments from afar. The majority of applicants still intend to go to the same university as before the crisis,” she said.

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