Safety Net: attempting to make it a little less confusing

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Following on from our chat on exam stress, this seems quite apt.  

Most of us, myself included, have at one point or another have had a little wobble whilst doing exams; worrying whether we’re going to achieve what we want, or would normally achieve in any other year.  It doesn’t help that our mental wellbeing is being challenged as well.  On top of that, we’ve done a year of education in a literal global pandemic, and now largely had to sit assessments during it too.  Basically, there’s a load of reasons why we need that little bit of support with our grading this year – queue the safety net policy.

Why is it here?

Well, the University have said that the purpose of the policy is to…

 

“do what is possible to ensure that your degree classification reflects your academic attainment and is not affected by any potential dip in your academic performance in assessments undertaken during a period of disruption."

 

Sounds pretty decent, right?  I mean, the shape of our studies has changed since March 2020, and these changes haven’t exactly been everyone’s cup of tea - or hit the sweet spot – I think I speak for most of us when I say that this Safety Net Policy, for both 2020 and 2021 has been welcomed with open arms.

 

For all the ins and outs definitely check out this useful page from the Student Advice team.  Here, I’m going to try and highlight the juicy bits that you might want to bear in mind if you’re particularly worried about the gradings this year, and then for more info I’ll tag the right pages!

 

Now, to my knowledge, these bits apply to all of you’s:

  1. Failed Modules *Touch Wood*
    We don’t like to talk about it, and we don’t want to jinx it, but in summary, if you fail an assessment this year, and consequently fail the module, you should be given a further uncapped opportunity to sit the assessment at the next available opportunity. 

    For this clause of the Safety Net Policy to be applied, you must have attempted the assessment, and failed the module overall. 

    As above, this resit will be uncapped, but it will be incremental i.e. if you failed your first attempt at the assessment in question, the re-sit will be considered your second attempt.
     
  2. The Secondary Rule
    The Secondary Rule isn’t a new thing – and you might have heard of it. Previously, as a result of the Secondary Rule, if you achieved a mark within 2% of a higher grade classification you may have been eligible for the higher award, provided that you had enough credits achieved at the higher level. 

    The Safety Net Policy 20/21 means that the requirement to achieve an average within 2% of the higher grade classification is removed, and you could achieve the higher boundary based on your profile of marks.  

    Considering a 3-year Programme as an example, if you achieve at least 70% in modules to the value of 120 credits at level 5 or 6 (years two and three), and at least 60 of those credits are at level 6 (year three) – then you should be awarded the higher classification of a First.  You are no longer required to have achieved at least 68% in your degree for the Secondary Rule to be applied.


 

For these bits, final year undergrads listen up, all others scroll down to my ‘Important Points’:
 

1. The Classification of your Degree

As some of you may recall, normally the classification of your degree is taken by calculating an average grade based on your summative modular results i.e. a mean average taking into account every module that counts towards your final grade.

 

Now, with the Safety Net Policy, the assessments which were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic between March 2020 and the end of the August resit period 2020, might not be taken into account when calculating your mean average. This will be the case if – and only if - by taking this year into account your grade average is dragged down. 

 

Read on to step 2 for more info on this.

 

2. A and B marks

Okay so, the A and B marks are essentially two separate marks for your degree, that are calculated differently and then whichever is higher is the mark you will receive.  

 

The 'Final Mark (A)' is essentially the ‘normal’ mark (above) – so what you would have had if everything was taken at face value, calculated per the requirements normally associated with your degree, as if CoRonAviRus had never happened.   

 

The 'Average Mark (B)' is calculated taking into consideration the pandemic, attempting to mitigate the disadvantage the disruption has caused.  So, this means that marks from assessments completed in the year 2019/20 after March 16th will not be included in calculating the final grade.  For example, assessments this year would be used in the calculation, but an assessment from May last year will not contribute to your B mark – so it discounts the grades that may have been affected by the disruption.

 

*Remember* it is the highest mark out of both the A and B marks that will be taken.  So if you did really well during Summer assessments last year, they will not be automatically discarded. These assessments would only be disregarded from your final award if your average mark (B) was higher than your final mark (A). 

 

3. Scaling

Further to the above, when looking at your grades individually and as a cohort, the examining boards will compare the grades achieved to the standards of the previous cohort(s), to prevent any glaring disparities. This is to ensure that your degree has academic integrity, and that you have not been drastically affected by the pandemic.

 

Important Points

  • For failed modules The Safety Net Policy will only be applied to your first attempts at an assessment/module. If you’re resitting for a second time (third attempt overall), the Safety Net might not be applied.
  • There is a limit on the number of times you can sit an assessment. You will need to speak to your School to find out how many attempts you have at each assessment. In most cases undergrads will have three attempts and postgrads will have a maximum of two – but double check, yeh?
  • You must actually attempt the assessment for the Safety Net Policy for failed modules to be applied. If you don’t sit at all, and don’t report extenuating circumstances your second attempt will probably be capped.
  • The Re-Sit and Repeat rules are still in place (this is complex so more on this can be found in the academic regs, or by speaking to advice, or on popular demand we can talk about it later - lemme know).
  • If you feel that the Safety Net Policy doesn’t do what it says on the tin, and you are in a position of detriment despite the policy being in place, speak to Student Advice. They can speak to you about your options, and to help you to communicate this to your School, and to the University.

 

Final Thoughts…

I hope that helps somewhat to alleviate some academic concerns…you’re definitely not on your own in this.  If you are confused about how the Safety Net Policy might apply in your circumstances, drop Student Advice a message. 

 

As always, if you are struggling at the moment and this is preventing you from revising or finishing that coursework, you are not alone.  If you think your mental health may be affecting your studying capacity, do check our Mental Health support page for some super helpful resources.  Also, take a look at the Student Advice webpage; you might find that you are eligible for Extenuating Circumstances or reasonable adjustments for your upcoming assessments.  There is loads of support available from the University should you need it.  If you have any questions, or you want to know more about the support available, or how these policies and procedures could be applied to you, you can contact Student Advice using the contact details at the bottom of this page.

 

This blog has been written by Charlie Mallinson from the Student Advice Team in the Students’ Union. If you would like further help and support with the issues raised in this blog, or any aspect of your student experience, please get in touch using the following links:

Contact Student Advice

Advice@cardiff.ac.uk  

+44 (0)2920 781410

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