King’s College London backtracks on elements of its safety net policy

The changes apply to Arts and Humanities degrees

King’s College London has backtracked on its safety net policy for Arts and Humanities departments.

Arts and humanities students were informed yesterday and today that their safety net average will no longer be calculated based on modules taken this academic year, but instead will be compared to their grade-average for 2018/2019.

The policy, therefore, will differ to all other departments in the university whose safety-net policy will be calculated on their average marks for this academic year.

The information sent in yesterday’s email contradicts the initial email on the university safety net policy published on April 3rd.

In the email sent out yesterday the Faculty of Arts and Humanities established that for those in the departments of Classics, Comparative Literature, English, Film Studies, History (including combined honors joint with Modern Languages), Liberal Arts, Music, Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies, that the safety-net policy will be changed.

“The safety net will be calculated by taking the average of a student’s marks for all completed modules from both semesters of the previous academic year. In most cases this will be 2018/19.

“For final year Modern Languages and History students who spent the previous year abroad, the safety net will be calculated using marks gained across their second year of study at King’s. In most cases, this will be from the 2017/18 academic year.

“Where the safety net average is higher than the average of all marks for this academic year (2019-20), a student will receive the safety net mark for the year.”

The initial email regarding safety net-policy and the information on the Coronavirus guidance page for students, however, stated:

“In determining your performance for this year, we will calculate an average based on all completed modules and summative grades available for work completed with submission deadlines up to 15 March 2020, where these can be considered sufficient to give a reasonable indication of your prior performance.

“Where sufficient information is not available from this year, we will seek to use other appropriate information, which may include the previous year’s grades or marks for formative work this year.”

Students are protesting against this change and have created an online petition to reverse the new changes to the safety-net policy.

The main issue the petition highlights is that this policy was changed after the majority of students would have completed their essays and exams.

It says: “The first major concern shared by students is the timing, which has come as a surprise to many and is detrimental to our work. The original policy was announced before multiple assessment deadlines and, crucially, before the start of the May exam period.

“This means that students have worked for assessments and exams for over a month knowing that the circumstances are being taken into account by the University in the provision of a safety net.

“However, the new policy was announced at the tail end of the exam period and after assessment deadlines, potentially bringing down many students’ expected grades for this year.”

The other major concern with this new change to the policy, is the fact that students modules from the current academic year are not being considered in the ‘safety net average’.

The petition says: “These departments are saying that a students’ grades from a previous year are more relevant to their current modules than grades from their current modules.

“Logically speaking, a student learns more and evolves during their time at university, and their grades more often than not reflect this fact by improving over time.

“To suggest that a previous year’s final average is a fair reflection of a student’s trajectory one year later is to suggest that a student will not improve.”

You can sign the online petition here.

These changes come days after postgrads were informed that they would not be included in the original safety-net policy.

A spokesperson for King’s College London said:

“As was outlined in an email to students at the beginning of April, the safety net would be calculated using marks from this year awarded before 15 March ‘where these can be considered sufficient to give a reasonable indication of your prior performance’.

“Some departments in Arts and Humanities are using marks from the previous year as students do not have sufficient marks from the current year ‘to give a reasonable indication of prior performance’. That is where programmes have a larger number of modules assessed later in the year, and where earlier assessments are low-weighting or taken too early to sufficiently indicate performance on the module.

“We remain committed to and have worked to provide a fair and equitable arrangement for all students. We are confident that we have all the mitigation measures in place to reflect this and to ensure that no student is disadvantaged. The safety net is only one of a very extensive range of measures the university has introduced to mitigate the effects of Coronavirus.”

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