Russell Group statement on ensuring fair assessment and protecting the integrity of degrees

07 January 2021

The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, today (7 January 2021) published a joint statement on ensuring fair assessment and protecting the integrity of degrees.

The full statement is below.

Russell Group universities are fully committed to ensuring the fair assessment of our students and their academic outcomes, and to upholding the quality and the integrity of our degrees.

We recognise that students have faced and continue to face significant challenges as a result of the ongoing pandemic. Our students have risen to those challenges by embracing blended learning models, following the rules set out by Government and working with us to help manage outbreaks of the virus.

In response to the pandemic, our universities have re-designed their learning, teaching and assessments for the 2020/21 academic year. They have put in place new teaching and learning plans and a range of support services so students can continue their academic study. They have also adapted assessment methods so students can demonstrate their knowledge and attainment of learning outcomes.

Our universities are confident that the steps taken this year will ensure all students are given a fair grade. We therefore do not consider that using the same algorithmic approach to provide individual ‘no detriment’ or ‘safety net’ policies, which were introduced by some institutions as an emergency measure at the end of the last academic year, is necessary or appropriate this year. Indeed, in many cases the use of such algorithms would not be possible given the scarcity of pre-pandemic benchmarking data available for many students.

We will continue to work to mitigate the impact of the pandemic this year, ensuring students are treated fairly with respect to past and future cohorts. We will also of course be taking their individual circumstances into account – in line with current approaches taken in all our universities, but with an enhanced focus on the COVID impacts.

Such measures are being tailored by universities to their particular structures and assessment systems, but examples include dedicated and streamlined processes for students requesting deadline extensions or Special Consideration/Extenuating Circumstances and removing requirements for written supporting evidence. Exam Boards will also ensure that all students, as individuals and as a cohort, receive fair outcomes that are comparable with those in previous years.

Our universities will continue to work in partnership with our students to review our approach to mitigation measures and make any necessary changes to ensure these are as effective, compassionate and empathetic as they can be, and that they recognise the challenges faced by all students and the exceptionally difficult circumstances that some students are facing this year.

At the same time, Russell Group universities have a duty to all students to protect academic standards and uphold the integrity of our degrees. This is critical to ensure that it remains possible to differentiate the overall performance of students and that the degrees of our graduating students are viewed as a mark of quality and continue to command the confidence of employers and professional bodies.


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