FAQ: Emergency Academic Regulations (Pandemic)

LAST UPDATED: Wednesday 6th May 


1.         What Are The Emergency Regulations?

The University has developed a set of Emergency Academic Regulations in response to the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, and the impact of the pandemic on teaching, academic student support and assessment. These Regulations are intended to ensure there is no detriment to student outcomes - they are a 'grading safety net'. They are also designed to enable the University to keep upholding academic standards and quality.

They override the existing Regulations, and you should read them carefully. The full regulations can be found here.

https://my.sunderland.ac.uk/display/AQH/Academic+Regulations

These FAQs will be updated on a regular basis as new questions are raised, so please do check back often. Please do note that academic questions should be addressed to your programme/module leader as normal, but for questions about how these regulations work please submit an enquiry through Compass. For further information and FAQ’s related to Covid 19 please visit https://sj.sunderland.ac.uk/gateway/covid19/ .

 

2.         How will the Emergency Regulations work?

The main way in which they will work is through ‘Programme Extenuating Circumstances’ (PECs). Unlike the standard Extenuating Circumstances Policy that you will be familiar with, PECs apply to groups of students: a whole module or programme cohort. PECs will only be used to the advantage of the student cohort, and you don’t have to apply for them – the University will put them into place, and you will be advised of what they are. Any PECs will be approved by a group set up by the University’s Academic Board, and chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic).

An important consideration for all of the Regulations in this document is that where your course is accredited by a Professional, Regulatory or Statutory Body (PSRB), the University may be constrained by the rules that Body place upon us. PSRBs are themselves responding to the crisis by offering varying amounts of flexibility. We will work within those rules to develop the best alternative plans that we can for you. These are referred to in the Emergency Regulations as 'PSRB regulations'.

 

3.         I am studying on the Integrated Foundation Year, or Stage One of a degree (levels 3 or 4). How will I progress at the end of this year of study?

You will be able to progress to the next stage if you have achieved 60 credits within the year by passing those modules at 40%. If you are studying ‘long thin’ modules (September to June), we may use the assessments you have taken within the first half of the year to award you half the credits for that module (so if you are taking a 40 credit ‘long thin’ module, we can look at your assessment in the first half of the year to determine whether we can award 20 credits for it). 

You will be contacted shortly to let you know that you have passed on this basis, or if not, what you will need to do in order to progress. Please do be patient while these decisions are made, and we will then contact you.

Note: Any Integrated Foundation Year student planning to transfer to another university must complete all assessments for the year, and these will be marked in full by us.  Please notify the Integrated Foundation programme leader, Anne Lambton if this is your intention.  This is because our new progression arrangements are only for those students continuing at Sunderland, we have no control over what arrangements are being made by other universities who may expect you to have achieved all 120 credits.

 

4.         I am an IFY or Stage 1 student, but I haven’t achieved 60 credits. What do I do?

You will have to achieve that number of credits to progress. Your options to make up the missing credits will be communicated to you by your programme team. This may be by redoing assessment that you have already taken but not passed, or by having your alternative assessments in Semester Two marked. You’ll have to pass enough credit at 40% to achieve your sixty credits overall.

You will be contacted shortly to let you know that you have passed on this basis, or if not, what you will need to do in order to progress. Please do be patient while these decisions are made, and we will then contact you.

 

5.         I am studying at another Stage. How will I progress?

If you have been able to complete all assessments, standard regulations will apply. If your assessment results are incomplete for any reason, your Assessment Board has the discretion, at the authorisation of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), to create an exceptional appropriate reassessment opportunity that will give you the ability to demonstrate that you meet the learning outcomes for those assessments. If necessary, exceptional decisions can be made that will permit you to progress notwithstanding missing results (to be caught up in year).

 

6.         I’m due to finish my degree. What will happen about my award?

The University intends to enable students to achieve their awards wherever possible. If there is an assessment element in a module missing (because of the disruption), your Board has the discretion to determine a final assessment outcome for that module, without the missing element.  A Board may also determine that there is enough evidence to make an award, even if we can’t yet determine a classification until you have a chance to retake assessment/complete a placement etc. For example, we could confirm an Ordinary Degree, until it is possible for you to complete with an Honours Degree.

We have established a grading safety net. For Honours degree and Foundation degree students, assessment boards will consider two degree classifications for you:

i) one using the average mark for the first semester of study only (your final Semester 1 marks, or the equivalent in time if a module runs September-June). This creates a ‘baseline’ and sets aside the period affected by the pandemic.

ii) one calculated using your full final year as usual.

You will receive the higher of the two classifications.

This means that you cannot receive a lower classification than your baseline classification from the first half of the academic year, prior to the disruption. This approach guarantees you a safety net from the effects of the disruption, but still allows you to be rewarded for an improved performance in the second part of the year. You should read the University’s emergency regulations for full detail of how this will work.

Both the baseline and the all year average will be considered when determining whether students fall into a classification borderline. If either average falls within the borderline, the student will be considered through the borderline process. If the borderline is determined by the all year average, the student will need to have 60 credits at the higher classification to move to that classification for their award. If the borderline is determined by the baseline average, the student will need to have 40 credits of the baseline credits at the higher classification to move to that classification for award.

 

For Postgraduate students, assessment boards will consider two classifications for merit and distinction:

i) your average mark for the first semester of study only.

ii) your average mark across your best 120 credits out of the 180 for your Masters.

You will receive the higher of the two classifications.

Both the baseline and the 120 credit average will be considered when determining whether students fall into a classification borderline for merit and distinction. If either average falls within the borderline, the student will be considered through the borderline process. If the borderline is determined by the 120 credit average, the student will need to have 60 credits at the higher classification to move to that classification for their award. If the borderline is determined by the baseline average, the student will need to have 40 credits of the baseline credits at the higher classification to move to that classification for award.

 

7.         The impact of the disruption means I need an extension to complete my assessment. What do I do?

You should submit an application for an extension in the normal way, to your Module Leader. They have been given the power to grant exceptional extensions beyond the norm as long as it is appropriate and proportionate to the situation. However, any extension granted will need to be within a time which enables your work to be marked and go to a Board as normal. Anything else will require an application for Extenuating Circumstances.

 

8.         Can I still apply for Extenuating Circumstances

Yes. You may have circumstances that are unrelated to the current pandemic, or you may have been affected by it. We recognise that in the latter situation it may be very hard for you to produce evidence, so we are asking you to self-certify, and explain to us how you were affected. 

 

9.         Does Fit to Sit still apply?

Yes, the Fit to Sit principle (that if you submit an assessment, you deem yourself fit to do so and cannot then claim Extenuating Circumstances later) still applies, given the generous extension and extenuating circumstance policies, and cancellation of all examinations.

 

10.       Has anything changed about the Leave of Absence rules?

Programme leaders are granted the right to approve six months additional leave of absence on top of the 12 months allowed by the University’s Leave of Absence Policy. This may be important if, for example, you cannot study further until a placement opportunity becomes available. If you are currently on Leave of Absence but wish to return now, you should contact your programme leader to discuss this -  but also take advice on the financial implications of this.

 

11.       I am a postgraduate research student. What changes affect me.

Your viva will be conducted through online video conferencing. If you are unable to participate in online conferencing, there will be a deferral until an appropriate date. The annual monitoring of research students will continue in written form only, with the option of online meetings if deemed essential.  Leave of absence applications will be considered sympathetically and with exceptional discretion as needed. In accordance with government guidance to reduce social contacts, staff and research students must suspend until further notice on-going or planned research data collection that involves face-to-face interaction with participants or access to specialist equipment. Where face-to-face interaction may still be necessary due to safety monitoring, researchers must update their risk assessments to take account of the ongoing situation. Where research is simply paused for a number of months the research ethics committees will not require notification, but if significant changes to research design are required a project amendment will need to be submitted in the normal way.

 

12.       Am I still entitled to submit a student complaint or academic appeal?

The University is balancing the need to ensure academic standards are met, while also ensuring that, as far as is possible, students are not disadvantaged by issues beyond their control. Students’ right to access the complaints procedure (for issues of service received) and the academic appeals process (for issues of challenge to decisions of Assessment Boards) are retained, and those processes will operate as usual. 

If deemed appropriate by the Vice-Chancellor, a number of similar complaints on the same substantive issue may be treated as a group complaint and dealt with as a single complaint. There may also be the need to vary the timetable for complaints handling and responses, while being sensitive to your needs, due to disruption to staffing caused by the pandemic. We will advise you of any such changes, and the Casework team would keep in touch with you over progress. The University will take appropriate regard to any guidance issued by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, or the Office for Students.

 

12.       Are you still concerned about my engagement now we are not physically attending?  

Yes! Although the pandemic has brought disruption to this year, it’s vital that you keep engaging with your studies so you can succeed, progress and achieve your award that you’ve worked hard towards. Although the change to teaching online through a number of routes means that you are engaging in many new ways, the University will still be monitoring engagement, through Engage but also through more detailed information in Canvas and through your participation in online session through other tools, such as Zoom. If we think that you are not engaging, we will get in contact to see if you need further support.

Equally, if you have concerns about the levels of engagement provided by any module you are taking, please contact your course rep, School Coordinator or write directly to your Head of School.

 

13.       What is the position if I was found to have committed Academic Misconduct in an Stage One or IFY semester one assessment and was asked to resubmit it?

We would expect you to complete this as part of achieving your sixty credits.

 

14. What does 'summatively marked' mean in the Regulations?

A summative assessment is one where the mark contributes to your overall module mark and outcome. A 'formative' assessment is one where the mark is for feedback only, and does not contribute directly to the module outcome.

 

 

CONTACTS AND QUESTIONS

Don't forget - these FAQs will be updated on a regular basis as new questions are raised, so please do check back often. Please do note that academic questions should be addressed to your programme/module leader as normal, but for questions about how these regulations work please submit an enquiry through CompassFor further information and FAQ’s related to Covid 19 please visit https://sj.sunderland.ac.uk/gateway/covid19/ .

 

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