A Working Group has been established in UCD to negotiate the implementation of revised academic policies. The changes aim to ensure students are not at a disadvantage with their assessments this trimester due to COVID-19 restrictions. This news comes after thousands of students have backed an online petition calling for a ‘No-Detriment’ policy in the university.

UCD students have been learning remotely since March 23rd as the current university shutdown has prompted the introduction of online learning for the remainder of the academic year. Thousands of students nationwide have called for academic leniency, claiming some may face disadvantages. The No-Detriment policy takes into account students’ circumstances and allows them to only improve their GPA once their exams are passed. An online petition calling for the policy to be introduced in UCD has received over 6,200 signatures.

UCD Students’ Union (SU) President Joanna Siewierska took to Instagram Live this evening with SU Education Officer Brian Treacy to update students on the matter. The duo began livestreaming directly following a Zoom meeting with Deputy President and Registrar Mark Rogers and a number of other senior management figures.

The Working Group is set to review the process of Extenuating Circumstances within UCD, potentially changing the policy to enable wider criteria for exemptions. The process has already been altered since the COVID-19 health crisis begun. Students are no longer required to provide a ‘Formal Statement of Circumstances’ verified by supporting evidence to validate their requests for extenuating circumstances.

The SU President explained that “there’s a couple of student scenarios where the No-Detriment policy wouldn’t necessarily be the best for them.” She expanded by saying the Working Group will return specific policies that are more appropriately tailored to various UCD courses and unique student situations.

When asked how likely UCD would see the implementation of a No-Detriment policy, Siewierska indicated that a sweeping policy may not be passed, but rather a number of arrangements that reflect the needs of different student groups more effectively. A blanket university policy seems unlikely to be introduced following the findings of the Working Group, but according to Siewierska, a number of new rules may be more appropriate.

According to the Union representatives, the Working Group spoke in detail on various elements of a No-Detriment policy and will continue to discuss options until the most effective solutions are found for students across UCD.

While Siewierska emphasised that the Working Group does not have “concrete solutions” to the problems faced by students as of yet, the team is due to meet either on Thursday or Tuesday and continue discussing how more specific solutions can be tailored to students’ needs.

Trinity College Dublin (TCD) students received an email today outlining a number of mitigating measures being introduced to assist students. Written by the Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Vice-Provost, the email argues the faults of the policy within an Irish context: “This precise mechanism will not work in our system, as students do not have a running grade point average.”

It is understood that the Office of the Registrar and UCD Students’ Union will update students on the decisions made by the Working Group. Treacy also mentioned that students will receive their exam timetables on Tuesday, April 14th.

In a statement today Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor announced a number of new changes in response to the current government health restrictions. She declared that further and higher education institutions will not be holding written, oral or practical assessments in examination centres during the COVID-19 health crisis. She also thanked higher education institutions for implementing alternative examination arrangements, going on to announce that students will not be penalised if they are unable to participate in the alternative assessments.

The Minister did not, however, acknowledge the mounting appeals from thousands of students nationwide to adopt a ‘No-Detriment’ policy for the remainder of the year, calling for academic leniency amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Conor Nolan, founder of the ‘UCD No Detriment Policy’ Facebook group which has garnered over 4,200 members in under six days, and would-be leader of the student movement, says the Minister’s statements “fail to acknowledge the true extent of the issues and struggles students are currently faced with in this pandemic.”

In an email on Monday, UCD’s Deputy President Mark Rogers outlined a list of new measures and highlighted supports for students but failed to address student calls for a No-Detriment policy, sparking anger from the student body online.

Other Irish universities have also seen a huge interest in the ‘No-Detriment’ policy, with online petitions gaining just under 6,000 for University College Cork (UCC), Trinity have reached over 4,200 signatures and Dublin City University have managed 3,200.

The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) have announced measures today closely reflect student demands, with NCAD introducing a “Safety-Net” policy which has successfully been introduced in a number of UK universities.

The university has yet to respond to requests for comment on widespread calls for a “No-Detriment” policy in UCD.

More to follow…


Conor Capplis – Editor