Youth wings of political parties call for ‘no detriment’ policy

‘Safety net’ policy supported by thousands of university students via online petitions

A range of measures are being introduced by third level institutions to address problems faced by students as a result of the pandemic. Photograph: Getty

A range of measures are being introduced by third level institutions to address problems faced by students as a result of the pandemic. Photograph: Getty

 

The youth political wings of most of the country’s main political parties have called on ministers for education on both sides of the border to liaise with the heads of third level institutions and professional bodies to put in place a ‘no detriment’ marking policy.

Most universities, colleges and institutes of technology campuses on the island have been closed since early March and college authorities have been working since then to mitigate against the disruption caused to students and to academic programmes by the coronavirus pandemic.

While third level institutions have introduced a range of alternatives to traditional assessments such as online real-time examinations and deferred assessments, students have campaigned instead for a ‘no detriment’ policy.

On Thursday, Labour Youth, Ógra Fianna Fáil, Ógra Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, UCD/DCU Social Democrats, Young Fine Gael, SDLP Youth and Young Greens/ Óige Ghlas jointly called on Minister of State for higher education Mary Mitchell O’Connor and the Stormont minister for education Peter Weir to work with third level institutions in order to introduce a ’no detriment’ marking scheme.

Described as “a basic safety net for all students”, a no detriment policy would ensure that once the student passes their exams, their average grade attained up to this point does not decrease.

“This policy, adopted uniformly in third level institutes across the country, would provide welcome relief for students and would ensure that their future academic or career prospects are not hindered unduly by the Covid-19 pandemic,” they said in a statement.

Student campaigners point out that some students are caring for sick relatives or may have been disadvantaged in other ways such as by having reduced access to computers, broadband and study aids.

Over 3,300 students have signed a petition calling for the introduction of the policy at DCU, almost 6,000 have signed an online petition at UCC while nearly 3,000 students have signed a petition at UL. An online petition calling for such a policy at Trinity has been signed by over 4,000 people.

Speaking earlier this week, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said she wished to “reassure” students that while alternative arrangements have been put in place “standards will be upheld”. She added that qualifications achieved this year “will be valued and regarded exactly as in any other year”.

Alternative arrangements adopted by third level institutions include real-time online examinations, written assignments and rescheduling of examinations.

Trinity College Dublin announced a series of measures this week including options for students to defer assessments until the end of the summer and permission for students to apply for re-sits to try and improve their results.

Trinity said it was aware of the ‘no detriment’ request put forward by some students at the college, but said it believes that the measures it was adopting offer the best way to offset the consequences of the pandemic “in a manner compatible with its progression and award regulations and assessment practices”.

The latest measures at TCD were approved by the college’s academic council and will affect a total of 11,000 Trinity students due to be assessed this semester.

Dublin City University (DCU) also provided students with details of alternative end-of-year assessments. The university has extended the examination period by a week to May 23rd to allow for any unforeseen technical issues that may arise for students.

A detailed survey of students was carried out to determine if their ability to access and engage with learning online was being affected by their internet connectivity.

“The responses of nearly 4,000 DCU students were analysed and taken into account by our academic staff when redesigning alternative final assessments,” said DCU president , Professor Brian MacCraith.

All of DCU’s alternative assessments will be carried out online. The format will depend on students’ specific programme requirements. Over 70 per cent of the alternative assessments will be through set tasks or take-away examination, with the remainder conducted by way of real-time online examinations. In this instance students will take the exam at a specified time using Loop, the university’s online learning platform.

* Students are advised to check with their respective college for further information.

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