The University of Birmingham has rejected recommendations made by the Guild of Students regarding amendments to its no-detriment policy

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Recommendations made by the Guild of Students for amending the University’s no-detriment policy have been rejected. This follows the publication of the University of Birmingham’s ‘no detriment approach’ aimed at negating the effects of coronavirus disruption. The Guild has today issued an open letter to the University in response.

The recommendations put forward by the Guild, based upon feedback from 415 student survey responses, were aimed at improving the current policy as it was deemed to lack certain protections for undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Published on 14th April, five recommendations were made by the Guild: The implementation of a ‘safety net’ policy to protect grades; a 5% increase on all dissertation grades, a 0.5% expansion of the grade boundaries of graduating students, allowing students to submit work to improve their grade they have completed their necessary 80 credits, and ensuring that reasonable adjustment plans (RAPs) are still applied to online assessments.

We are therefore extremely disappointed in the University’s rejection of all recommendations we have made

However, UoB have formally rejected the proposals. In their written response to the Guild regarding the recommendations, the University stated: ‘We are appreciative of the strong support and guidance that the Guild continues to offer students during these exceptionally difficult circumstances. As always, it is important that students have the opportunity to provide feedback on their learning, and we would like to thank the Guild for taking the initiative to generate this survey.’

UoB also said in their response that their emergency framework ‘meets (or even exceeds) the Guild recommendations.’

The Guild has published an open letter in response to the University, saying, ‘We have spent the last few weeks listening to the students we represent. We’ve also held many discussions with the University over the no-detriment approach, attempting to engage constructively to plan a way forward.

‘We are therefore extremely disappointed in the University’s rejection of all recommendations we have made. We are seriously concerned about what this current approach will mean for our students and we feel strongly that you should take the time to reconsider.

‘We do not feel that the legitimate concerns of students have been engaged with and we know that many students do not feel adequately supported by the current offer.’

The letter calls for UoB to reconsider their decision and introduce the four recommendations; a 5% increase in grades for all dissertations; a guarantee that no student will graduate with less than their trajectory, an expansion of the grade boundaries by 0.5%, and allowing students to complete assignments beyond their 80 credits to improve their grade.

Despite UoB assuring the Guild that they are ‘mindful of the very difficult home situation in which many students find themselves’, the Guild remained firm on their position and insist that the suggested policy changes ‘are reasonable and in line with the approaches taken at many other universities.’

It remains unclear if the current dispute over the University’s approach to assessment and grading during this pandemic will be resolved. However, the Guild’s firm stance on the matter is evidence of the severe difference of opinion on how to manage the current crisis.

Explaining the rejection of the Guild’s no detriment demands, UoB stated: ‘The Senior Education team at the University has been engaged in regular dialogue with the Guild of Students throughout the period of the current COVID-19 crisis.  We have listened carefully to student concerns and views, and this has informed our published approach to supporting final year students – at all levels – to complete their awards and be able to graduate in these unprecedented times.

‘Rather than “rejecting” the recommendations from the Guild, we have considered them carefully and, in some aspects, we believe we have gone further than the Guild proposals to ensure that the best interests of all students are represented.’

The University concluded by their statement, adding: ‘We know that everyone is working hard under exceptional circumstances, and that includes staff. The provisions we have put in place for all students, but in particular for final year students, are exceptional and take careful account of the world in which we find ourselves today. We believe these provisions are fair, proportionate and in the best interests of students now and into their futures.’


An image from the Guild of Students advertising its 'save our degrees' campaign to alter UoB's no-detriment policy
A slogan used as part of the Guild’s response to the University’s rejection of its no-detriment recommendations