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Lancaster uni is letting its students down without a safety net

‘Everyone has flunked an assignment at some point’

With the COVID-19 pandemic ensuring that on-campus teaching for universities throughout the country will be impossible, many have decided to implement policies to compensate for the lack of contact hours. Universities that have introduced these policies include Coventry, Dundee, Durham, and Exeter.

As everyone’s aware by now, Lancaster University has cancelled all exams, where possible, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some departments are giving students the option to sit take-home online exams in August, should they wish to try and boost their grade through the sitting of an examination.

This is well on the way to levelling the playing field for students, as we’ve all been affected by this pandemic in one way or another.

“Great, no exams!” you’ve probably thought at least once, am I right? I am right; you know it, I know it.

Lancaster Uni has made sure that, where possible, students don’t need to sit exams. Instead, they’ll be awarded their average-to-date. For a lot of students, this will come as a welcome surprise, and they’ll be perfectly happy to take whatever their current grade is, and progress onto their next phase. However, if you’re a student like me, for a few modules you’ll have received assignment grades back and said “Oh… at least I can pull it back with the exam that’s worth 60 percent!”

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Well, sorry to disappoint folks, but Lancaster has decided to take that option away from you. Of course, you are able to sit the exams at home, if you wish, however you’re not able to cherry-pick which exams you sit; it’s very much “all or nothing.” Meaning that where you’d aced one assignment and let yourself down in another, you’ll have to sit BOTH exams, just for the sake of boosting your grade from the module with the piss-poor assignment.

Studies have clearly been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic (otherwise we’d still all be returning for Lancs for Summer Term) and other universities have taken this into account by introducing a “no-detriment policy.” The policy basically means that if you choose to sit exams then if you perform poorly your grade CANNOT dip below your current average – ensuring that there’s nothing to lose should you choose to sit exams in August.

Lancaster, however, being the ugly duckling, has decided not to implement this policy as of yet. Instead opting for emails that lack clarity, and allowing rife departmental disorganisation, Lancaster has allowed its students to face even higher levels of anxiety. Our university has ensured that not only have we been provided with the world’s most unhelpful exam “information,” but it’s floundered amidst the pandemic that we’re all facing. Many other universities have sprung into action, providing clear, simple, and helpful information surrounding exams – apparently Lancaster is unable to follow the example set by its peers.

For those students who aren’t convinced that a no-detriment policy would help them then put yourself into the shoes of someone not only whose grade hangs in the balance, but also their future. “Well, they should’ve put more effort into their assignment, shouldn’t they?” I hear you cry.

Everyone has flunked an assignment at some point. And, inevitably, you’ve then had to rely on the exam for that module to help you out and bring your average back into a balance that you’re happy with. Now, imagine the stress being faced by those students who not only need to sit these exams to pull their grades up, but also have to worry about their health whilst studying, and not being able to have a healthy study pattern due to the circumstances of this pandemic.

A no-detriment policy isn’t crucial for some students, but for many of us it would be a lifeline, and a vital show of compassion from a university that has already let us down in its stagnant response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Many students have already signed online petitions in an attempt to make the university sit up and listen to those of us whom need their understanding now more than ever.

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We’ll have to hit the bottle…

No, exams aren’t the “be all and end all” of life, you’re absolutely right. Exam performance isn’t the end of the world – so why is our university allowing its students to treat it as such?

Lancaster University needs this policy, it needs to finally show that it cares about its students, and it needs to act before it’s too late.

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