Ben HaywardMarch 30th
2020

The National Union of Students (NUS) has called on universities to cancel or postpone this summer’s exams in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

The union says the action must be taken in order to avoid further stress and disruption to the lives of students under restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.  

What is more, disabled, international and poorer students would be significantly disadvantaged if universities press ahead with plans to hold online exams and assessments next term, says the NUS. 

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It proposes that final-year students should be given a choice of how to complete their degrees, with options including receiving an estimated grade based on prior attainment, completing an open book online exam, or simply taking their finals at a later date, reports the Guardian. 

Claire Sosienski-Smith, the NUS vice-president (higher education) said: “In the current climate, student welfare must come first. It is vital that there are no compulsory exams this year.”

The NUS also said that it believes all exams for first and second-year students should be cancelled, and that postgrads should be given a six-month extension to their submission deadlines.

Thousands of students across the UK have asked that universities put in place alternative assessments to minimise the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on academic performances.

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International students at Imperial College London are currently in the position of having to sit online exams in the middle of the night after the university said 'being in a different time zone cannot be used as a mitigating circumstance’ and that students must be ‘available at the correct UK time, wherever they are’. 

Others - including Chinese students - have been unable to access important study materials due to internet censorship, with one student, quarantined in Shanghai, saying he couldn’t access Panopto lecture recordings because the site was blocked by China’s firewall.

In a statement, Imperial College said: “We are putting additional support in place for students and we are updating our mitigating circumstances policy to take account of where a student does not have access to the equipment or facilities to undertake the assessment.”

Disabled Students Dropping Out University

The NUS’s disabled students officer, Piers Wilkinson, said he believed the academic year should just be ended now as universities are unable to provide disabled students with the adjustments they are legally required to put in place.

Wilkinson said most of the study support provided, such as note taking, sign-language, and screen readers, would be impossible to provide remotely.

“There is no way that disabled students can be on an equal level playing field as every other student during this pandemic,” he said. They should be allowed to suspend their studies until it’s reasonable and equitable for them to start again.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK, which represents 137 higher education institutions, said universities were looking at options to make sure students were fairly assessed and that ‘universities will try to be as accommodating as they can’ to students’ varying needs for support.

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