It has been a very challenging, even turbulent, few weeks for the whole College, students and academic and professional staff alike. Even as the national scene has changed, we have been working hard with your schools and departments to reschedule assessments and also to think about how we can deliver exams in our new circumstances.
We’d like to update you on the progress of these discussions, and some key aspects of our planning, ahead of our further update on Friday 3 April.
We will not be holding face-to-face, invigilated examinations in this academic year. Instead, staff have been working on alternative assessments, suitable to each subject, bearing in mind the learning outcomes you need to achieve to progress to the next academic year or to graduate.
We have identified three ways of doing this:
- Alternative assignments for text-based subjects (short, written pieces)
- Problem-solving exercises for numerical subjects
There are some specialist areas, such as performing and creative arts, where other alternative assessment formats will be needed.
- You will not be asked to attempt any alternative assessment in a format with which you are not familiar already. To help you there will be opportunities to practice the alternative assessments next term.
- You will not be asked to sit an examination online in real time. All aspects of the alternative assessments will be calculated to take into account the problems with access to learning resources, IT connectivity, and the different geographical and practical constraints.
In creating the alternative assessments, we have three guiding principles: simplicity, practicality, and fairness.
We want the alternative assessments to be simple to understand and complete; we want the assessments to recognise the practical constraints under which you may be working; and we want them to be fair for all students from our diverse community.
I would also like to reassure you that we will maintain the quality and value of our degrees for your future life. We have been working with colleagues in other universities to identify best practice and to share approaches to learning and assessment in this crisis. Importantly, we are in touch with the regulator for universities, the Office for Students, and in some cases, accrediting bodies to ensure we meet the requirements of employers.
Staff across the College are now working very hard to ensure that we are in a position to offer as much clarity as we can on our replacement for examinations in our email to you on 3 April. Coursework
For coursework, many of you are completing assessments for term 2, and we have moved the deadlines to reflect the disruptions you have experienced. There is already an extension in place for assessments up to the end of term; and your schools should have contacted you with updates about extensions for assessments due over the Easter period. Updates on extensions will be added to the student intranet by Monday 30 March at the latest.
Finally, we understand that many of you are concerned with coping under these extraordinary conditions and the impact this has on planning for next term. We appreciate that this is a worrying and confusing time and that you will have a lot of questions that we currently don’t have the answer to. I would like to reassure you that we are working on answering these questions, and more information will be available on 3 April, when we will email all students with a further update.
Our commitment to you is that we will be able to share details for the vast majority of our students. It is possible that there may be some details that will still need confirmation as, I’m sure you will understand, this is an incredibly complex undertaking. If you still have questions once that information is made available, there will be contact details for you to find out more, if necessary.
We appreciate that these are difficult times for you, your families, for our colleagues who support you and for nations globally. All of our lives have been changed, and for how long none of us can say.
My colleagues and I who work to provide and support your education – in all its aspects – are determined that our students will emerge from this crisis with the degrees they deserve and enabled to study, to work, to contribute, and to thrive as individuals and as part of the wider societal effort to rebuild.
Stay safe and well; please follow the guidelines on staying at home and social distancing, and we will welcome you back to the new online Royal Holloway after Easter and we hope to have you back in person on campus as soon as the situation improves.
Professor James Knowles
Senior Vice-Principal (Education)