Skip to main content

Students: Assessments

Question for Department for Education

UIN 179335, tabled on 12 April 2021

To the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the average number of credits not taken per student as a result of no detriment policies implemented by universities in the 2019-20 academic year.

Answered on

20 April 2021

As autonomous institutions, higher education (HE) providers are responsible for the administration of their own exams and assessments. HE students and providers have faced unique challenges as providers have had to adapt teaching, learning and assessment methods in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some providers have put in place policies stating that students should not be awarded a degree classification below their level of academic performance prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. A ‘No detriment policy’ is designed by providers as a safety net for students to help ensure they are not unfairly impacted by these challenging circumstances. This approach may not be appropriate for all providers and we recognise that there are a number of ways to assess students which will lead to a wide variety of measures being put in place.

The government continues to work closely with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, professional bodies and the Office for Students to ensure students continue to leave university with qualifications that have real value, reflect their hard work and allow people to progress. The professional bodies have put alternative requirements in place for graduation to maintain standards, building on similar arrangements which were made for graduation last year.

I am aware that the majority of universities adopted ‘No detriment’ policies last year. We have not made a detailed assessment, or estimate, of the extent of these policies in terms of student numbers, credits not undertaken or the impact on future employment prospects.

However, I have been clear that I expect providers to make all reasonable efforts for student achievement to be reliably assessed and for qualifications to be awarded securely. It is vital that a fair approach to exams and assessment is in place and understood by students. Any policies universities put in place to ensure students are not unfairly affected by the circumstances should continue to maintain standards – and awarding powers must be used responsibly to preserve the world-class reputation of our HE.

Providers should seek to ensure this and last years’ students are not disadvantaged in the labour market by whatever measures are taken and should provide assurances as appropriate to enable employers to have confidence in qualifications awarded.