This post is intended to provide branch members with an update and overview of the most significant measures that have been approved to mitigate the impact of the MAB on undergraduate finalists, and to inform members elsewhere of the ongoing situation.
These measures to date, as of 9 June 2023, are as follows:
- The underlying principle is that the MAB affects individual students in different ways, so the approach is based on dealing with individuals rather than the entire student cohort – as was the case for example for the exceptional measures introduced to mitigate disruption at the height of Covid;
- Where marks are missing the flag AD (Administrative Delay) will be used in both SAMIS and on transcripts to indicate the impact of the MAB. Where it is possible to conclude a student has met the learning outcomes a mark of 40AD will be awarded and this used for interim award calculations should it not be possible to establish whether the learning outcomes have been met a mark of 0AD will be recorded;
- The strict requirements, especially in relation to double marking, set out in QA16 (including projects and dissertations) have been relaxed. In such cases marking can go ahead, potentially with alternative but equivalent quality assurance arrangements that have been affirmed by the Board of Studies. Should the BoS be satisfied of the equivalence in quality of the alternative approach the marks will be considered final;
- A new ordinary exit award (i.e. an unnamed awards without honours), Bachelor of Arts, BA, has been created. This, alongside ordinary BEng and BSc, is to be used as an interim award where students are affected by the MAB in such a way that final marks cannot be granted (i.e. the flag AD affects more than 18ECTS ). Students who have accrued at least 150 ECTS, of which 60 at level 4, 50 at level 5 and 30 at level 6 would qualify for these ordinary awards;
- BEPs have been invested with the authority of making interim award recommendations where students have been significantly impacted by the MAB;
- Interim awards will be rescinded once the MAB is called off and a full set of marks for the student is received;
- There is provision for interim awards to be made final under extraordinary circumstances and in consultation between the Board of Studies, The Director of Academic Registry and the proVC(L&T).
The reputation of the university is largely based on its very high academic standards. Employers see us as an institution which awards high quality degrees. Two points in the approach to MAB mitigation are of particular concern as they could be seen to undermine the academic standards we have all been bound to (at least so far):
First of all, the assumption that MAB will mainly affect individuals rather than cohorts is simplistic. Our QA code of practice makes the Board of Examiners for Units responsible for ensuring the academic standards of the units under its authority. In particular the BEU is called upon:
- ensuring the conduct of all examinations and assessments required to determine whether or not a student has successfully achieved the learning outcomes of the units under its academic authority (cf QA35 6.3.1c);
- ensuring that the summative assessments for a unit provide an appropriate level of academic challenge in testing that the learning outcomes have been achieved (cf QA35 6.3.1d).
According to QA35 6.3.2, to fulfil their responsibilities […] BEUs […] analyse unit marks for any skewed or unrepresentative features. QA35 6.5.1 states that ‘to reach its decisions both the marks of individual students (for every component of assessment) and statistical data for each unit must be available for consideration by the BEU.’ Marks denoted AD are not included in the unit statistics so in the case of units where a significant number of assessments has been affected by the MAB the BEU will not be able to discharge its responsibilities. This eventuality is not mentioned in the documentation prepared by the University. This has significant implications as the presumption that students not affected by the MAB can be processed without intervention is, under such circumstances, flawed.
The second point is associated with the relaxation of the double marking requirements as set out in QA16.11: All final projects/dissertations that make a significant contribution to the final classification should be blind double marked, and the processes that must be followed in case of disagreement between markers. The implicit assumption here is that double blind marking is the gold standard, anything else must, therefore be a compromise (whether the BoS affirms that the alternative is equivalent in terms of quality assurance). It is of concern that no guidance has been given as to what acceptable alternatives might be especially given that in such cases the marks will be considered final and an award will be made to the affected students as if due process (i.e as outlined by QA16) had been followed.
Finally, the creation of new interim exit awards – simply to allow student to process at graduation – seems ill advised and effort could have been better spent in trying to resolve the dispute.