We are leading a campaign to ensure Oxford students get the best deal for their degrees.
The University must recognise the academic challenges students are facing this year due to the pandemic. We are calling on the University to implement an empathetic approach by reassessing their plans for workload and assessment. Whilst it may take some time for the University to finalise any changes to course assessment, it is paramount that the University acts as soon as possible to outline their planned steps and changes to assessment where possible.
Our priority is two-fold:
To ensure individuals with personal challenges (e.g. bereavement, mental health issues or lack of access to resources) are not disadvantaged, by securing a strengthened individual mitigating circumstances process
- To ensure cohort level challenges are recognised and dealt with by the university and by departments fairly to prevent students being disadvantaged by the pandemic in their degree.
That’s why our campaign is split in two, with Oxford SU lobbying at the University (with your help!) and us supporting YOU to lobby at the course level to get the deal that works best for your cohort. We need your help, sign up to join and support our campaign here
What have we done so far?
Following our calls to the university to commit to rescaling and/or reweighting all exams and assessment in Hilary and Trinity 2021, we’re pleased to see that the university has released details on their plans for mandatory rescaling across all cohort.
Paper averages adjusted:
This policy, which is outlined on the Coronavirus Teaching & Learning page of the University’s website, guarantees that paper averages for medium and large cohorts which are below a small average range will be brought in line to the pre-pandemic average. Furthermore, special guidance has been issued to examiners regarding preventing a downturn in the number of firsts from pre-pandemic years and preventing failure in first preliminary examination.
University will accept 'explanatory statements'
For students with certain coursework submissions, the university has also indicated that it will allow for the submission of explanatory statements which highlight any barrier they’ve faced in completing their work. These will be provided to examiners during the marking phase, which means they will have an impact directly on student marks, not just classifications.
Improvements to Mitigating Circumstances process
Finally, after our calls for a better mitigating circumstances process, the University has agreed to make the process easier for students, by removing the need to provide independent medical evidence, and removing the need for students to seek and gain college approval for submitting Mitigating Circumstances notices to Examiners (MCEs).
Our university level asks
We’re calling on the University to:
Provide more clarity to students regarding the details of the exam and assessment support package
Provide guidance to students on vaccination timetables in regards to any conflict they may present to exam scheduling
Publish a central list of all exams, including their dates and format, with regards to being online open book, online remote invigilated, or in person invigilated
We're calling on all departments
To engage with their students to produce solutions that are fair for their cohort
To be transparent to students about the changes they make
To ensure their exam boards take advantage of the policies the university has put in place to ensure that cohorts' outcomes will not be negatively affected by the pandemic
This will ensure that students get the best deal possible and the recognition they deserve of the hard work they've put in and the incredibly tough circumstances they've faced this academic year.
What else are we asking the University for?
- Self-certify: Allow for students to self-certify for mitigating circumstances and remove the burden of proof from students. Students should not have to prove that living through a pandemic has affected them and their studies (streamlined and self-directed)
- Marks not just Classifications: Ensure the Mitigating Circumstances process impacts actual marks and degree classifications by default
Support for Students:
- Financial support: Expand the Uni's COVID-19 Scholarship Extension Fund and COVID-19 Hardship Fund.
- Mental health: Ensure students can access the support they need through ensuring student welfare services can be accessed remotely.
- Academic: Boost support by offering more regular catch ups with tutors and providing sessions on issues such as task management and dissertation writing.
What are we asking the University to do for students with exams?
- Prelims: Cancel preliminary examinations for 1st year undergraduates and replace them with college-based collections, which allow all students to proceed to 2nd year.
- Future Years: Ensure mitigating circumstances policies implemented this year remain in place for students who matriculated by MT20.
- Extensions: Allow departments to give deadline extensions for coursework, where possible and beneficial for students.
- Communicate and co-develop: Ask that departments make changes transparently and in partnership with students.
What are we asking the University to do for research students?
- Fees Grace Period: Extend continuation fees grace period for Postgraduate Research students for at least Trinity and Michaelmas 2021.
- Blanket funded extensions: Join the national calls for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to offer blanket funded extensions; call on the University to match these extensions for non-UKRI funded research
Sign up to support our campaign here
We'll also be supporting every student to come together with their course to lobby their department on the specific best deal for their cohort. The diversity of course and assessment types at Oxford means these some decisions will be made at the departmental level. We're committed to securing the best deal for students at the University level and empowering students to work with course reps and divisional reps to create a strong set of asks for their course. We'll be providing support including toolkits and workshops to help students secure these deals.
Together, we'll get the best deal for Oxford students: fair outcomes for all.
How can you help?
Support the campaign
Sign up to our campaign so that the sabbatical officers can show university leaders that students are united on this year's exams and support our asks.
Our sabbatical officers and divisional reps will lobby on these issues at divisional boards and key University groups such as Education Steering Group, Taught Degrees Panel, and Education Committee to ensure they’re adopted.
Lobby your departments
- Use our resources and understand what changes you can call for at the course level.
- Organise your course/cohort and agree a clear set of asks for your department.
- Appoint leaders (we’d suggest your course rep/JCC rep) to liaise with Oxford SU. Our policy team will check your asks and empower you to work with your department/faculty to get the best deal for your cohort.
- If you’re a course rep/JCC rep/student leading your course’s asks get in touch with us and we can help you ask for the best possible deal and give feedback on – email@example.com
Are you a course rep? Register here
We will continue to lobby the University including at a divisional and departmental level on these issues over the coming days. We understand the complexity of these challenges given the diversity and linearity of many Oxford courses but are committed to working with both you and the University to find a solution that works for all Oxford students.
Policy: Our policy team can read through your course level asks to check you'reasking for the best possible deal: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sabbs: We're happy to help or give feedback on emails to heads of department or supporting/checking over your course level asks. Vpaccaff@oxfordsu.ox.ac.uk
Comms: Our comms team can give you advice and support if you arecontacted/covered by any local or national press - we're here for you! Contact email@example.com
Advice: As always, you can get individual info, support and guidance from Oxford SU’s free, independent and impartial advice service here.
Rep Coms are termly meetings for Reps from every common room- the full schedule will be sent to Reps and Presidents this week – make sure your Reps attend to support each other, hear from the sabbs, and find out how campaigns are progressing in other colleges. Any questions – firstname.lastname@example.org
Take a look at the slides from the last session: Fees, funding & exams: How to get the most from your degree
Take a look at the slides from the latest session: How to get fair outcomes for your course: What we're doing and how to get involved - Sign up to the event
How can I get help on my individual issue/what are and how do I apply for mitigating circumstances?
Our free independent, and impartial advice service at Oxford SU can provide your options and support you through the mitigating circumstances application process. Here’s the info about our advice service and how to get in touch.
Mitigating Circumstances notices to Examiners (MCEs) are notices students can write to register with the examiners that they have been affected by an issue, e.g. bereavement/accident/field trip or resource issue.
University information on mitigating circumstances and MCEs is here
Is fair outcomes for students for postgraduate taught (PGT) students?
Yes, students need support, especially for 1 year courses. Our asks apply to all students with exams and assessment. Our VP Graduates sits on all the education groups to ensure graduate voices are amplified.
Why can we get the same policies put in place for last year (Summer 2020)'s exams and assessment?
Some of the policies we're asking for are the same (e.g. self-certify mitigating cert, appropriate reweighting). Some can't be done because students don't have pre-pandemic banked work (e.g. dissertation done pre-covid) and we can't use prelims/collections. That's why our call for reweighting + rescaling asks along with everything else will secure the best deal
Why should we trust and support the SU campaign?
Experience: we played a pivotal role in securing the deals for Summer 2020 assessment, Role: we're in the main education groups- we can ensure issues are raised and actioned. Policy: Dedicated policy team for support plus national networks (e.g. NUS).
What are we doing at a national level?
We’re supporting NUS’s Students Deserve Better campaign to get action and ensure students aren’t disadvantaged by the pandemic. See the campaign’s priorities and support them at: https://www.nus.org.uk/campaign-hub/students-deserve-better
Who are the Sabbatical Officers?
We’re a team of 6 students elected annually and in post for a year from July-July. We work full-time at Oxford SU (yes, we’re paid too!) to represent students and campaign on a range of issues. You can see what we do on our website and if you think it sounds fun, check out our leadership elections where you can run to be a Sabbatical officer for 2021-22.
What are the divisions and divisional boards?
Oxford is divided into 4 divisions: Medical Sciences (MedSci), Humanities, Social Sciences (SSD), and Mathematics, Physical, and Life Sciences (MPLS). All main academic departments are in one of the four divisions. Each division has internal decision-making bodies, like divisional boards, which are attended by the Oxford SU Divisional Representatives.
Who are the divisional reps?
These are students appointed and supported by Oxford SU to represent students at the divisional level. Contact them:
Social Sciences Division
Undergraduate Rep: email@example.com
Postgraduate Rep: firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical Sciences Division
Undergraduate Rep: email@example.com
Postgraduate Rep: firstname.lastname@example.org
Undergraduate Rep: email@example.com
Postgraudate Rep: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taught Rep: email@example.com
Research Rep: firstname.lastname@example.org
Find your Head of Department here, and consider using this template letter to reach out to them.