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University of Edinburgh rejects calls for a ‘no detriment’ policy

In an email sent today, the Vice Principal Colm Harmon told students that the university would not be implementing a ‘no detriment’ policy in the light of recent new lockdowns. 

When the first lockdown was initially announced in March 2020, the university adopted a ‘no detriment’ policy that provided students a safety net amidst the uncertainty of the early days of the pandemic. 

Referring to that policy as an “emergency measure”, Harmon wrote:

“While it is true that we are still in the pandemic, it is also true that we always – always – operate assessments and grading in a way that sets out to maximise the opportunity of all students to demonstrate their knowledge, even where getting that knowledge has been impacted by events. 

“It 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.“

Acknowledging a Russell Group statement from earlier this week that deemed ‘no detriment’ policies unnecessary, Harmon added: 

“This is not just us – the Russell Group has clarified a position around the approach to assessment and we were involved in those discussions. “ 

His email comes after over 9,000 students signed a petition, started by University of Edinburgh student Jo Gray, calling for the introduction of a ‘no detriment’ policy. 

Harmon recognised the petition in his email, saying: 

“Many of you have written to me and the Principal and signed the online petition about the academic challenges you are facing and how assessments can be fair, particularly now that the majority of learning and teaching will take place digitally throughout January and February.

“We have heard your constructive and deeply felt views that you must be assessed in a way that is fair for everyone. 

“Part of that is to ensure that we can provide greater transparency to you about how the assessment process works normally which will, of course, take into account the exceptional circumstances faced by all of our students this year. “ 

Additionally, he announced a “working group, including representation from the Students’ Association” that would report to him and the Principal about the exceptional circumstances faced by students this year in order to ensure that the assessment process is as transparent and as fair as possible.

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