The Russell Group of 24 British public research universities – including the University of Oxford – have issued a joint statement addressing the uncertainty around examinations caused by new COVID-19 restrictions.

The statement comes after soaring COVID-19 infection rates caused Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a new nationwide lockdown. University students have had in-person teaching suspended until at least mid February, unless they are studying a small number of approved subjects including medicine, education and veterinary science.

The Russell Group says they are confident that the measures universities have implemented to allow students to continue their degrees remotely will be sufficient to allow students to be assessed fairly. As a result, safely nets and no detriment policies will not be in place. The statement describes these as “emergency measures” which would not be “necessary or appropriate” for the 2020/21 academic year, and that the lack of pre-pandemic benchmark data would make assessing many students algorithmically impossible.

“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.” the statement continues.

Protecting the academic standards and integrity of the degrees awarded by universities was also used to justify the decision. However, the statement listed measures that universities are taking to support students, including special considerations for extenuating circumstances and extending deadlines.

A spokesperson from the University told Cherwell “As per our communications at the end of Michaelmas term, students will receive an update about examinations in the near future. The current position related to exams, and academic impacts are outlined on the teaching and learning and FAQ pages of the University coronavirus website.”

The full statement from the Russell Group can be found here.

Image: Steve Cadman/ C.C. 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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