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The No Detriment Policy: Pros, Cons and Complicated Clauses

Opinion, Uni

The No Detriment Policy: Pros, Cons and Complicated Clauses

I’m incredibly sorry to do this to you but yes, I’m going to talk about the ‘no detriment policy’ like everyone else. No doubt I’m adding to the ever-growing stream of commentaries, although hopefully less tediously than say Crushampton. For those of you studying at the University of Southampton, you know what I mean…  

In light of the policy, I’ve rounded up what I think are the *sparse* best bits and the drawbacks (based on the policy instituted at UoS). Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the nitty-gritty maths business of it all. Not to sound like a typical humanities student but… 

  1. The Pros

In all honesty, I’m not a fan of the current no-detriment policy in place at my University (if you somehow couldn’t tell), but I do think there are elements that are progressive. More than anything, I think it has opened the eyes of University advisors and boards in charge to the struggles students encounter in their real lives outside the lecture theatre. Whilst I speak on behalf of my department, the help they have extended has been really rather good. Extensions and special considerations forms have been well advertised and easy to find, as well as widened to incorporate the many diverse ways COVID has affected different students. It’s important that elements and drawbacks of studying at home be considered and applied after the pandemic, seeing as many elements impact students when they are given essays over the holiday periods (such as working to remain financially afloat, lacking study space at home, resources, mental health complications when withdrawing from a sociable and exciting environment). These are things that have always impacted students, and whilst right now working is deemed a genuine reason, during term time lecturers are far less sympathetic. 

At a more basic and obvious level, the no detriment policy is a pro when you consider that your average cannot fall below what you had achieved pre-COVID19 and, therefore, your classification will not suffer devaluation for circumstances outside your control. Hooray! I cannot think of anything more disheartening than finding out my average had dropped because of Miss Inconsiderate Rona (although admittedly it is the least the University could do for students and follows the popular precedent).

Moreover, depending on your School within the University, some and most are following the policy whereby anybody sitting on a grade boundary will still have the chance to improve their overall classification, despite writing off semester 2 for most. I’m going to hold fire for just a second on the second half of the no detriment policy whilst I discuss the benefits, as there is a clear caveat. Using myself as an example for the no detriment classification policy, I’m currently sitting on 68%. If I perform well in the rest of my semester two assignments, I might be able to scrape a first. 

  1. The Cons

Whilst the no detriment policy is rather nice in protecting your average from devaluation, it comes at a cost and that cost is in most cases writing off your semester two grades entirely. It hits even harder for those without the 2% policy, and those who are joint honours are still unaware of what happens when their two schools have opposing policies. I study BA English and History. History have decided they will use the 2% policy, whilst English have not. The complete write off of semester two also means that rather painfully, the four thousand word assignment I just submitted a week ago counts for ZERO, other than my ‘learning’. 

It feels rather silly to ignore data that could be used to create a more accurate and representative year average, especially seeing as some grades were achieved way before COVID19 really kicked off. Essentially, it feels like whilst my average is safeguarded, it’s simultaneously capped if my department doesn’t opt for the 2% policy. Moreover, what happens to the people who aren’t on a boundary but still want to improve their average? We seem to have forgotten the difference a few % in second year could make when combined with our % for third year. Of course, these are small concerns within the scale of the pandemic, although very important real ones to students striving for the very best. 

  1. The Complications

I’ve given you both the benefits and the downfalls, but I haven’t addressed why I think the policy overall just completely complicates the situation. Sadly, the no detriment policy was conveyed to students in possibly one of the worst manners. They notified us we would receive some kind of policy yet delayed the release of actual information for a significantly long period. Moreover, the first email was misleading. To encourage students to work hard at online learning, they gave us the impression that semester two would still count. I feel a little cheated having spent so many agonising hours over my essay to get every word perfect now that it is unlikely to mean much. I have always wanted to do my very best, although there comes a point where you have to consider how much you want to trade your sanity for it (lockdown is driving so many people to new emotional extremes, I feel you). 

Probably the hardest part is that the University cannot compare how COVID-19 has impacted each student as it is so highly subjective. Some may not have had the same opportunities to work as others, especially those working as key workers (thank you for giving so much). However, I do think there comes a point where you have to stop attempting to compare students. Unfortunately, some do not have the same work ethic as others and approach essays entirely differently anyway, pandemic or not. Well done to anyone who can bang out an essay two days before its due and write something effective, but that is totally not my style. Even more importantly, writing off semester two undermines the fact that from the very beginning of University, some students always have more time to devote to work than others. This pandemic has intensified many things, but penalising students for having more time because they can’t leave the house seems unfair. I genuinely think that anyone directly affected by COVID, such as catching the awful disease or losing a loved one, would not wish the interests and hard work of other students to be negatively impacted. 

In summary, I think students are right to expect more. Whilst it’s annoying to wait for another update after saying they’d review the policy again, it doesn’t change the fact we’ve already waited so long, and so we can wait a little longer. If it means the interests of students MIGHT be more adequately addressed, I will wait. Winter is coming, though…

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