In the wake of the provisional examination results which were released on Monday, The College Tribune conducted a survey to see whether students believed the Covid-19 Assessment Guidelines, often referred to as the “No Disadvantage Policy”, were reflected in their grades.
150 students across an array of disciplines were surveyed, including Arts & Humanities, Business, Engineering & Architecture, Health & Agricultural Sciences, Social Sciences & Law and Science. Social Sciences & Law represented the largest number of respondents at 32.7%, with Business students representing the smallest at 8.7%. 63.8% of respondents were female, 34.2% were male and 2% were non-binary. There was a far greater interest in the survey among undergraduates, who represented 149 of the respondents.
The main concern highlighted by the survey was a perceived lack of compliance with the guidelines by lecturers. 14% of students believed their lecturers adhered to the policy exactly as specified, while 34% believed their lecturers followed some, but not all parts of the policy. A further 29.3% said their lecturers did not follow the policy, while 22.7% of students were not sure. Additionally, 42.7% of students said their Spring Trimester GPA fell; one student commented, “GPA decreased significantly” with another saying that “[the policy] did not stop my GPA from dropping unfortunately.”
It was believed by many that the guidelines would prevent students’ grades from dropping, hence the general consensus that the policy was not adhered to when the provisional results came out on Monday. Seeking clarity on the matter, The College Tribune spoke to Conor Anderson, President of UCD Students’ Union.
When asked to comment on the fact that only 14% of students believed their lecturers followed the guidelines, Anderson mentioned that this was a “consistent point of confusion” among students who had contacted him about their results. He clarified to us that the guidelines do not directly affect module coordinators or lecturers. In fact, he said, the guidelines are focused at what are known as the Programme Examination Boards (PEBs) and the Programme Examination Review Committees (PERCs). These are the bodies who review the provisional results after they have been graded by the individual lecturers in the interim between the release of the provisional results and the approved results. Essentially, Mr. Anderson said, “the guidelines have not been implemented yet” because they are directed at the grade approval process, not the provisional grading process.
It is understood that, because these results are provisional, they have yet to be reviewed in alignment with the Covid-19 Assessment Guidelines. This is why so many students have complained of lower grades in their Spring Trimester assessments in comparison to the Autumn Trimester. However, according to Mr. Anderson, the final results released in July will have been graded in alignment with the policy; that is to say, the PEBs and the PERCs will have taken into account the past performance of individual students while approving their grades, and will adjust the grades accordingly where necessary.
Several students commented on the fact that there seemed to be a miscommunication between the Students’ Union and UCD. One student commented, “communication from [the] SU differed from communication from Mark Rogers [Deputy President of UCD], [I] didn’t know what was actually implemented and what wasn’t”. Another said, “UCD’s communication about the policy was vague and the student union was telling us something completely different. I’m still not sure what the university’s actual stance was.”
Mr. Anderson agreed that there was an element of miscommunication in this regard; in fact, he said, the term “No Disadvantage” was never the intended label for the guidelines. He said that it was actually President Andrew Deeks who used the term in a meeting, and that the name essentially stuck from there on out. It could be the case that the term “No Disadvantage” added to the confusion surrounding the policy, leading students to believe they were getting a policy more in line with the “No Detriment” approach they had initially asked for, and which was adopted in several colleges across the UK.
Another statistic to come out of the survey was the fact that only 18.1% of students answered “Yes” when asked if UCD cares about them. 43.6% said no, while 38.3% said maybe. The College Tribune asked the same question during the fight for a No Detriment policy, which yielded similar results. When asked to comment on this, Mr. Anderson was in agreement: “I don’t think the university cares about students”. He encourages students to use their voices; to send emails, talk among themselves, protest, get angry and “demand some kind of change”. He said the SU is happy to strategize with students in this regard.
Roisin Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor