Studies, examinations and assessment
Despite these unprecedented challenges, bringing widespread disruption around the world, no Ulster University student will be academically disadvantaged as a result of COVID19 impacts.
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Summer 2020 Graduations
Graduations are a treasured moment for graduands, their families, and the wider University community.
Whilst current restrictions have meant that we had to take the difficult decision to postpone our Summer 2020 graduation ceremonies, we are working closely with UUSU to mark the occasion in other ways, as together we make plans to celebrate our class of 2020.
Students graduating this summer will be invited to a graduation ceremony, when it is safe to hold physical ceremonies.
We strongly encourage you to continue with your studies and you can be assured that our priority is to support you in achieving your full potential.
There will be no formal campus-based examinations in May/June or July/August 2020.
Alternative assessments have been designed and will be delivered over the coming months to ensure that the academic integrity of each degree is preserved, and every student can continue to confidently pursue their chosen degree programme and future successful career, on schedule and as planned.
The approach to design of alternative assessments incorporates a range of flexible options, to ensure students have ample opportunity to succeed. The best and most favourable outcome will always be used to determine your degree classification.
Whilst some students may opt to take a leave of absence, these alternative assessments mean that no student will have to do so or to incur any associated financial impacts.
Health programmes and Belfast School of Art
We recognise that the necessary transition to online teaching and learning presents challenges in some disciplines, particularly those that are studio-based, or in healthcare.
Health Related Programmes
This is a particularly challenging time for our students on health-related programmes with many now moving into the workforce to assist in clinical areas or joining the NHS emergency temporary register(s) established to respond to COVID19. Similar arrangements apply to students completing Social Work programmes.
The University is enormously proud of the contribution its students will be making over the months ahead and will take all necessary steps to protect their academic progression and award completion.
Course Directors will keep you fully informed of changed delivery and assessment arrangements.
Belfast School of Art
Given the studio-based nature of our art and design provision and the requirement to close campuses for teaching, changes have had to be made to support students following courses in this area.
Staff are actively exploring additional options and solutions, recognising the integral nature of the student opportunities and unique learning outcomes such courses are designed to offer.
Whilst we cannot replicate all elements of the student experience in these subject areas, every effort is being made to best reflect the hard work and commitment of our students and to equip them for their future career. We continue to consider all practical options with student representatives.
Your Course Director will contact you directly with further details about requirements and arrangements for completion of your course and assessment.
Your questions answered
How will COVID-19 affect my studies?
The University has been working to ensure that students whose studies may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are not disadvantaged at the point of assessment, while preserving the academic integrity of their award.
There will be major changes to assessment practice to allow us to graduate and progress as many students as possible within this academic year.
Priority will be given to the final year of courses to ensure that award decisions are not delayed and as far as practicable, steps will be taken to protect student progression in a timely manner.
Consideration is being given to Semester 2 assessments and any potential scope for revision, however no change is planned to semester dates for students at this stage.
Any module changes whether in terms of content, assessment or delivery will be communicated to students as soon as possible.
Students will not be assessed on content or materials not delivered by any course or module. If the delivery of a module or the content contained in an assessment are affected by the move online, this will be taken into account, where appropriate, when the work is marked.
How will this impact on my academic progression?
Students can be reassured that arrangements will be put in place to protect student progression, completion and award and every effort will be made to enable students to complete their courses as expected.
Course teams are working hard to make the necessary adjustments to both delivery and assessment and will keep you informed of progress.
You should regularly check your course site on Blackboard and your emails for updates.
Will my fees be refunded as a result of the pandemic?
In line with Government directives, we are all staying at home to save lives. In response to these unprecedented circumstances, University teaching staff have repurposed our education provision to maintain continuity of teaching through digital channels.
Every course is providing alternatives to support learning, teaching and assessment by other means during this period. We are also taking steps to ensure that students whose studies may be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are not disadvantaged at the point of assessment, whilst protecting learning outcomes and the academic integrity of their Ulster University degree.
Ulster University’s firm commitment is to ensure that our students are not deprived of the opportunity to learn and to move forward in their studies and future career, on schedule and as planned. In this context we do not anticipate fee refunds for students.
For direct guidance on fees and finance options please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I do not have the technology to engage in education by digital channels. How can the University help me?
The University acknowledges that some students do not have the technology to engage in education by digital channels - and we keep this under review.
To better quantify personal access to technology across all students, we opened a survey, to which 11,000 of you have already responded.
If you have been unable to respond so far, you will find a mobile responsive link here.
We encourage you to take five minutes to complete it soon. This will help the University to make a comprehensive assessment of the individual and collective capacity of our students to access our digital education channels off campus.
Through completion of this survey, a small number of laptops have been distributed to students in need.
If you do not have the financial means to secure appropriate technology, you may be able to get financial support from the Student Support Fund (NI/UK students) or the Hardship Fund (ROI/International students).
If you do not have the technology to access your course, please contact your Course Director for a review of academic mitigations that may apply to your situation.
You must also submit details of your situation to us through the online COVID-19 Enquiry Form that will be opened on 20th April on these pages and we will arrange to contact you.
I am a self-funding and wish to continue but have difficulty meeting my fee instalments. Can the University help me?
The University understands the strain that COVID-19 may bring for personal and family incomes.
With the academic year being at an advanced stage at the point of government introduction of social distancing measures, much of your fee will have been paid, if not wholly to date.
If you have instalments to make, the Fees Office will make short-term extended arrangements to assist you in continuing to cover your fees.
If you are in financial difficulty arising from COVID-19, you may be able to get financial support from the Student Support Fund (NI/UK students) or the Hardship Fund (ROI/International students).
For further advice and guidance, contact the fees office by email email@example.com.
Exams and Assessment
What will happen to exams and assessment?
The University has agreed that, in recognition of the need to protect the health and wellbeing of students and staff, examinations and other face to face assessments scheduled for the end of the current semester will no longer take place and will be replaced by alternative on-line assessments.
What will my alternative assessment be and when will it take place?
Where the usual assessments cannot continue as specified in certain modules/courses, alternative assessments have been prepared and will take place during May/June.
Please check your course area of Blackboard Learn for specific details and your emails for regular updates
What should I do if I am struggling to meet my assessment deadline?
If you are having difficulty meeting the deadline set for your assessment, please make contact with your Module Co-ordinator or Course Director in the first instance.
Our alternative arrangements have been designed with flexibility; and students unable to complete by the May/June timeframe, may take the assessment in July/August as a first sit, without penalty.
What if I am unable to take my alternative assessment?
If you are unable to complete the alternative assessment in the usual May/June timeframe, you will be able to take it in July/August without penalty.
The mark you receive then will count as a first sit, as if you had taken it for the first time in May/June, and your mark will not be capped.
What happens if I fail my alternative assessment?
Students who fail the alternative assessments will be permitted to retake/resubmit it in July/August 2020 without penalty and the mark you receive then will count as if you had taken it in May/June.
What if I miss the deadline for my alternative assessment?
In this context, we are giving students as much additional time to upload/complete alternative assessments as is possible.
Students who nevertheless miss the deadline for submission of alternative assessments will be permitted to retake/resubmit the assessment in July/August 2020 without penalty and the mark you receive then will count as if you had taken it in May/June for the first time and your mark will not be capped.
I don’t want to take the alternative assessment. Can I take the examinations instead in August?
Ulster University will not hold formal campus-based examinations in August.
Students who have been unable to complete alternative assessments in May/June, will be able to take the alternative assessment for 31 July 2020.
However, if the alternative assessment is an online examination, this will take place online between the 12-20 August and the date will be communicated to you by your module coordinator closer to the time.
I have a disability and receive additional time or support to complete assessments. Will I continue to get this support?
Your Reasonable Adjustment Recommendations (RAR) will be taken into consideration by Course Directors and Module Coordinators when devising alternative arrangements for assessment. There will be different types of alternative assessment used across different courses and schools and if your existing adjustments cannot be accommodated for online assessment e.g. non-medical help (scribe, reader and prompters) your Course Director will contact you to discuss this.
If you have any particular concerns about your ability to complete the mode of alternative assessment put in place by your course team, you should discuss this with your Course Director or Module Coordinator in the first instance. You can also discuss this with your AccessAbility Adviser in the Student Wellbeing team, although they will not have access to the course specific information. You can contact them via email or request a telephone appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are currently getting one to one support such as a Dyslexia Coach, Mental Health Mentor, Study Skills Coach or Notetaker this will continue remotely via Skype/Zoom etc where possible within your existing allocation of hours. If you have any issues with your one-to-one support you should contact the Register of Support Providers on email@example.com
I am due to retake a module from Semester 1 / last year. When will I retake it?
Alternative assessments have been set for students to retake in July/August where possible.
Please see Blackboard Learn for details specific to your course.
You can continue to contact your Module Coordinators and Course Director by email but please allow a little extra time for them to get back to you.
I have a piece of coursework which I have to resit/retake because I wasn’t able to. When do I have to resubmit coursework?
All coursework being resubmitted should be submitted by 31 July 2020.
I am having technical difficulties – how will I be able to complete my online assessment?
If you are experiencing technical difficulties in accessing course material online, you should contact ISD.
Why is the University not awarding marks on the basis of work completed to date?
In order to successfully complete your course, you must demonstrate that you have met all the course learning outcomes.
Alternative assessments are being designed to ensure that you have the opportunity to pass all the essential learning outcomes for your course and to support you as you progress through your programme of study to a successful career.
Are there any changes in the arrangements in relation to plagiarism as a result of other assessment variations in response to COVID 19?
The current processes for dealing with all forms of cheating, including plagiarism, remain unchanged.
If you are uncertain about these procedures you can find details in the Policies and Procedures section of Student Administration pages.
When will I get my marks?
Our staff are all working exceptionally hard to deliver teaching online, to support you and to provide alternative assessments to enable you to continue to progress and graduate as planned.
In that context, marking may take slightly longer than usual, but all coursework will be marked as soon as possible, however you should receive coursework marks within 20 days of submission.
If you do not receive your mark within this timescale, please contact your module coordinator in the first instance.
Module results will be released online on 10 July 2020.
If you are retaking one or more pieces of assessment you can expect to receive the marks for resubmitted coursework or retaken examinations on 10 September 2020.
How do I know marking will be fair?
All assessment continues to be marked and moderated by qualified staff and is subject to scrutiny by External Examiners. In addition, we are taking steps to ensure no student will be academically disadvantaged as follows.:
- All students who are either unable to complete or who fail the alternative assessment are allowed to retake/resubmit the assessment in July/August 2020 as a first sit and receive the mark without it being capped.
- The University’s Policy on Student Assessment in Times of Disruption will be applied. This means that the marks achieved by your cohort in a specific module will be compared to those achieved in previous years and also to the overall performance in Semester 1 modules unaffected by the current pandemic restrictions. If significant discrepancies are noted an uplift factor will be calculated and considered by the relevant Board of examiners.
- For students currently studying level 5 modules (second year full-time undergraduate students): as level 5 module outcomes contribute to the overall degree classification, the University will calculate your degree classification at the conclusion of your programme by applying both the current 70%:30% (level6:level 5) and the former 100% final year degree algorithms*. You will receive the better outcome.
*Undergraduate degree programmes.
What if I am not happy with the mark I receive?
Whilst there is no appeal against academic judgement, the University has taken mitigating action to ensure students are not academically disadvantaged by the disruption caused by the pandemic.
You have the right to appeal, in appropriate circumstances, against a decision of a Board of Examiners or a Faculty Board or a Campus Progress and Award Board.
An appeal must be based either:
- on evidence of extenuating circumstances relevant to your progress which in your view was not in the possession of the Board of Examiners when it made its decision (SA1 appeal)
- on a procedural or other irregularity associated with the decision (SA2 appeal).
Appeals must be submitted within seven working days of the publication of the Board of Examiner's decision on the web.
Further information is available on Examinations and Appeals.
Defer/ Leave of Absence/ Withdrawals
What if I wish to defer/take Leave of Absence from my course?
We recognise that for some students, this may be the preferred option and the usual procedures through which to apply for a deferral will continue to be available. The financial implications of any such decisions will vary, depending on your individual circumstances.
The assessment options being made available are designed to avoid students unnecessarily incurring additional time and cost by having to extend their period of study, and to enable all Ulster University students to stay on track and complete their course within the normal timescale.
I cannot continue with my course. What are my options on withdrawal and refund?
Withdrawal from your studies is a major decision for you and one that we know students would not take lightly. In the first instance we will work with you to help you remain on your current study pathway through mitigations, where possible. We recognise that a number of you for whom continuation with your studies at this time is not possible, and we will consider those cases on an individual basis.
Your Course Director can advise you on the process of academic mitigation and deferrals for extenuation circumstance where feasible, practical and accessible.
If you are considering leave of absence or withdrawal you MUST also submit details of your situation to us through the online COVID-19 Enquiry Form that will be available from 20th April on these pages and we will arrange to contact you.
If I withdraw, what am I still liable for in the way of Tuition Fees and loans?
Tuition Fee Liability Policy operates on cut-off dates which are either already in the past or are imminent given that we are in an advanced stage of the academic cycle.
Withdrawal will trigger a notification to your loan provider, if you have one. This may have implications in your being required to repay maintenance loans and grants that are linked to your enrolment. We suggest you contact your loan or grant provider or Local Education Authority (NI) for further advice.
Your Course Directorwill work with you on academic mitigations and deferrals for extenuating circumstances.
If you are considering withdrawal, you MUST submit details of your situation to us through the online COVID-19 Enquiry Form that will be available from 20th April on these pages and we will arrange to contact you.
I have withdrawn from placement. Does that affect my fee?
The University has offered all students on placement the option to complete their placement early and has put in place assessment without penalty.
As placement awards will be made whether or not students have been able to complete the full period of placement, there will be no effect on your fee for the placement year.