In an email to students today, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Graham Virgo, has stated that the university will implement ‘a package of mitigation measures which will operate as a safety net’. These will be designed to ‘safeguard student achievements from the impacts of the pandemic’. Virgo told students that he is ‘consulting with faculties, departments, and student representatives about this package of measures and I will write to you again once this is finalised’, which will likely be by mid-February.
This follows significant pressure for the university to adopt exam mitigation policies. On 13th January, the Student Union released an open letter calling for no detriment policies that ‘take into account the stark reality of the current situation and the scale of COVID-19-related disruption to students’ lives throughout this year.’ This letter has so far been signed by over 1,400 students.
As well as this, on 11th January, Ben Margolis and Aastha Dahal, the Undergraduate and Postgraduate SU Presidents, signed a letter, along with SUs from 22 other universities, telling the Russell Group that their decision had ‘caused unnecessary anxiety amongst’ students.
Virgo did, however, explain that ‘in line with all other Russell Group Universities’ Cambridge ‘will not this year be adopting the “no detriment” policy that was applied last year in assessing students’ work.’ He said that while ‘most of last year’s results relied on summative assessments’ from the previous year, ‘these are not available for 2020’.
On 7th January, the Russell Group announced that their universities would not be implementing safety net arrangements ‘using the same algorithmic approach’ as last year. They stated this was because ‘universities are confident that the steps taken this year will ensure all students are given a fair trade.’
Virgo outlined that the ‘University and College services remain available to’ students. While the UL and faculty libraries are closed (as are many college libraries), ‘Click and Collect’ and ‘Scan and Deliver’ services are still being provided. The university’s decision to close libraries, however, is an aberration from what most other universities are doing and is not a necessary measure under current government guidance.
‘The Disability Resource Centre, University Counselling Service, and Careers Service are all available online and for remote appointments.’
‘I want to reiterate that both the Colleges and the University are committed to supporting you. If you are struggling, do tell someone. There are many people to help you. Even though you may not be living in Cambridge, you remain a member of your College, and if you have any concerns you should contact your Tutor, your Director of Studies, or your college nurse,’ Virgo continued.