We interviewed University College Dublin Students’ Union (UCDSU) President Conor Anderson last month for clarification on the fact that students’ provisional results were lower than they anticipated, despite the implementation of the Covid-19 Assessment Guidelines (colloquially referred to as the “No Disadvantage Policy”). It was revealed in that interview that the guidelines would be reflected in the final grades, and that students did not have to worry – yet.
In light of the final exam results, released on Tuesday July 14th, The College Tribune conducted a survey to see if the final grades had in fact been adjusted in accordance with the guidelines. 145 students were surveyed, with a roughly even spread of degree stages represented.
The survey revealed that the majority of students’ results have not changed – 91.7% of students’ final grades were the same as their provisional grades. 5.5% of students reported an increase, while 2.8% reported a decrease.
A major theme within the comments requested in the survey was a belief that the guidelines had not been adhered to. One student commented, “My grades have not changed at all under the no disadvantage policy [sic]. Having a 1:1 in [the] first semester, my GPA dropped down to [a] 2:1 in [the] second semester.” Another felt there was “a clear lack of communication between the SU and the university.”
With this in mind, we spoke to UCDSU President Conor Anderson, to gain some insight as to why students’ final grades still did not reflect their pre-Covid grades. Anderson said this was due to “a failure on the part of University management to first, effectively communicate these guidelines to the schools, and secondly, to actually hold the schools accountable to following them.”
He continued, “I was assured by Marie Clarke [Dean of Undergraduate Studies] on two separate occasions that my interpretation of the guidelines was correct, and that I was correct to communicate to students that their 1.1 and 2.1 awards would be protected from negative impacts due to poor performance this term.” According to Mr. Anderson, Professor Clarke personally signed off on the FAQ on the SU website, which assures students, “you will do just as well as usual, or even better.” The SU President expressed his dissatisfaction on the issue: “I consider this a rank betrayal of the student body and of the SU, and I do not know how management can expect me to work with them going forward.”
Considering what has revealed itself to be a major issue, we asked Mr. Anderson what recourse is available to students now that the results have been finalised. He informed us that the last resort here is the official assessment appeals route. However, his confidence in this option was scant: “I have every suspicion that the appeals office will reject appeals made on the basis of the guidelines, by claiming that such appeals are an attempt to contest academic judgment and are therefore invalid. I have no faith that University Management will stand with students in this matter.”
We reached out to members of University Management for commentary on the subject, including Professor Marie Clarke and UCD’s Registrar and Deputy President, Mark Rogers. No response has been received by the time of publishing.
Roisin Roberts Kuntz – Assistant News Editor