Please note: the following information is intended for TEI Staff and Students who are part of the Common Awards scheme.
Last Updated: 3rd March 2022
Reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic has been our priority over the last two years, and we continue to do everything we can to support Theological Education Institutes (TEIs) and students.
You may be aware that Durham University introduced Covid-19 safety net policies in 2019-20 and in 2020-21.
In 2019-20 when TEIs were unable to prepare for the pandemic, the No Detriment policy provided a safety net so that students could take assessments with the confidence that if their marks were worse than those they gained for work completed before the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not affect their degree classification.
In 2020-21 the Academic Safety Net policy took into account the different circumstances we found ourselves in, where Covid had affected the entire year, but staff and students had had time to prepare for the unique conditions of learning and teaching. The Academic Safety net provided an integrated set of policies aiming to ensure that no students’ educational attainment was worsened as a result of the pandemic.
In 2021-22, we find ourselves in a different context again. With restrictions eased across the country and TEIs generally able to offer the teaching and learning activities they want, the University currently has no plans to introduce a specific Covid safety-net policy for modules taken in 2021-22. This may change if the Covid-19 landscape shifts significantly in the coming months. However, we recognise that some students may still find themselves seriously affected by Covid-19, and that the cumulative mental and physical stress experienced by many over the last two years may continue to impact students taking assessments this year. Therefore we wanted to provide you with details of processes and policies which can be used by TEIs to support students affected by Covid in 2021-22.
Please be assured that if students took assessments in 2019-20 and 2020-21, the assessments will still be covered by the previous Covid-19 safety-net policies, no matter when the student completes their studies. A summary of these policies can be found in the FAQs below.
Covid 2021/22 FAQs for students:
1. How will my TEI take any general disruption into account this year?
2. What if I am seriously affected by Covid-19 on an individual level?
3. I took Common Awards modules in 2020-21 - how will the Academic Safety Net support me when I complete my studies?
4. I took Common Awards modules in 2019-20 - how will the No Detriment Policy support me when I complete my studies?
TEIs will be aware of ways in which Covid-19 has disrupted teaching and learning at their institution this year, which may include restrictions on access to resources, to experiences relevant to study, and to conversation.
TEIs have already reviewed and amended assessments to reflect the disruption of Covid-19. TEIs can similarly amend and adapt marking practices to ensure that they reflect the current circumstances in a fair way. Therefore work will be assessed in a way which takes account of the challenging conditions in which students prepared for, and took assessments, including the resources that students had available to them. TEIs should refer to the additional guidance already published on taking Covid-19 into account when marking.
There are various ways in which you may be seriously affected by Covid-19 on an individual level - for example if you are suffering from serious illness or mental health issues, caring for others who are severely unwell, or experiencing a bereavement.
If such circumstances are affecting your ability to study, the ‘Serious Adverse Circumstances’ (SAC) process may be appropriate for you.
You can find more about this process on here, but in summary, this is what you would need to do:
Your institution may be able to mitigate for these circumstances through offering extensions, opportunities to catch-up on missed commitments, temporary or longer-term reasonable adjustments to learning and assessment, or considering a suspension of studies.
However in some cases there may not be time for your TEI to implement these measures, or the effect of your adverse circumstances may go beyond the mitigation put in place, or you may not have been able to let your TEI know at the time when you needed the support. In these circumstances, you can make an application through the Serious Adverse Circumstances procedure for staff to look at your situation. Your institution will be able to guide you through this process.
This process can allow your institution’s Board of Examiners and the Durham University Overarching Common Awards Board of Examiners to make decisions that can affect your progress in your qualification and your final results, taking into account the impact of the SAC.
For example, decisions made by Durham University’s Overarching Common Awards Board of Examiners in light of an SAC impact grade can include:
The Academic Safety net provided an integrated set of policies aiming to ensure that no students’ educational attainment was worsened as a result of the pandemic. TEIs were able to use a range of additional measures during the year to help mitigate for the effects of the pandemic.
TEIs were also asked to review assessments proactively to determine whether a ‘group-mitigation flag’ should be applied to any assessments. TEIs applied this flag to assessments where groups of students had been exceptionally impacted by Covid-19 disruption despite mitigation measures, as evidenced by a significant drop in average marks for the module.
If one of your modules was flagged in this way, when you graduate the Durham Board of Examiners will scrutinise your record (anonymously) for the effects of Covid-19 in the same way that students with individual Serious Adverse Circumstances are scrutinised when making classification decisions.
In addition, if your average mark for 2020-21 was five or more percentage points below the previous year, your record will be scrutinised (anonymously) for possible Covid-19 effects. A major drop in year-on-year performance for graduating students will trigger a review of individual as well as group factors that may have affected performance.
You can find full details of the policy here.
The No Detriment policy provided a safety net so that students could take assessments with the confidence that if their marks were worse than those they gained for work completed before the Covid-19 pandemic, it would not affect their degree classification.
Under this policy TEIs were asked to identify which assessments were affected by Covid-19 in 2019-20. When you graduate, if you are completing on a classified programme and took level 5, level 6 or level 7 modules* in 2019-20, then the University will produce two separate final degree AMWs (arithmetic mean weighted marks). One will be the standard AMW, and the second will be the ‘No Detriment AMW’, which will exclude any Covid-19-affected assessment marks. The Overarching Board of Examiners will use whichever is higher to determine your final classification.
In practice, this means that your performance in 2019-20 Covid-19-affected assessments can only improve your overall classification. You can find full details of the policy here.
*Please note that the ‘No Detriment’ policy does not affect Level 4 assessments because, while first year assessments play a critical role in enabling students to learn from their programme and demonstrate their ability to progress in the degree, they do not contribute to the classification of degrees.
If you have any questions about any of the above, please don’t hesitate to contact the Common Awards team on firstname.lastname@example.org