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Majority of students surveyed support ‘no detriment’ policy

Following Colm Harmon’s email last week, The Student approached University of Edinburgh students, to gauge their reactions to the university’s rejection of a no detriment policy for final year students.
In his email, Professor Harmon stated that the university introduced last year’s no detriment policy as ‘an emergency measure’.
He stated, ‘while it is true that we are still in the pandemic…[i]t is also important to me that we do not have special measures in place any longer than we need to – the University has been committed to ensuring the value of your degree is as high as ever, and the best way to do that is to make sure we have things as normal as possible.’

The Student conducted two surveys of students’ opinions on no detriment and found a mixed reception. In a poll posed to students asking whether they believed a no detriment policy was the best policy for this year’s finals students, 70% agreed.

However, in a qualitative survey posing the same question, some students offered reasons why they disagreed with no detriment. One student stated:
‘As they have so often…mentioned, students had only completed one full semester before March 2020.
‘It is therefore ridiculous that their grades are pegged to the grades of only a quarter of their honours degree.’

Yet while the student stated they ‘agree with [the university’s] decision to not implement a no detriment policy’ they felt ‘they have completely failed students by not providing them adequate support in place of the policy and it is shameful how they have treated students.’
Another student in support of the university’s rejection of no detriment suggested the decision was ‘perfectly reasonable.’
‘Some specific cases may require additional scrutiny but in general exams and coursework have not been upended that drastically…we should be used to this by now.’

While some students supported the university’s decision, others cited concerns that their learning had suffered from the move to online learning, introduced in line with Scotland’s guidelines to tackle rising coronavirus numbers.

A fourth-year psychology student was among those who felt a no detriment policy was the best solution for this year’s finals students.
The student believed ‘it would take a huge pressure off the already incredibly stressful circumstances we’re working under’.
‘…We are in essentially the same condition as last year’s final year students – if not worse because of all the online/mixed teaching – so why not respond to the situation in the same way.’
In recent coverage of the no detriment movement, much attention has been paid to the reception of the petition started by an Edinburgh student calling for the policy to be reinstated.

Assuming the petition’s 9444 signatures came entirely from Edinburgh students of all levels of study, this amounts to around 20 percent of the student population. * Responding to the university’s concerns that the use of pre-pandemic benchmarking data was not feasible this year, the fourth-year author of the petition stated:
‘it must be noted this is just one type of ‘no detriment’ policy.
‘A ‘no detriment’ policy could still be granted, but one based off a more holistic set of mitigating policies.’

Responding to university’s concern over the policy jeopardising the value of degrees, the student stated they ‘cannot see a greater threat to the integrity of our degrees than forcing students to perform business as usual throughout a global pandemic, without any extra measures being taken to safeguard their grades or wellbeing.’ Last week, Edinburgh University Students’ Association Sabbatical Officers joined other Russell Group student union leaders in a letter to the Russell Group’s Chairman, calling for a revision of their stance against no detriment.

This week, the Sabbatical Officers have again come out in support of the policy and are optimistic that they can influence the university to introduce some form of protection and support. They stated ‘while [Colm Harmon’s] recent comments are disappointing, we have been lobbying hard for the University to commit to protections and support for students whose academic performance has been impacted by the pandemic, and we’re optimistic that we will see progress on this issue soon.’

Image: Yurii Efremov via Wikimedia Commons