Eastern & Home Counties UCU Rotating Header Image

May 5th, 2020:

Students’ fear over exam assessment

Almost half of university applicants think that the coronavirus crisis will have a negative impact on their chances of getting into their first-choice university, according to research from the Sutton Trust

The research also found that working class applicants are more likely to be worried about the impact on them than their middle-class peers (51% vs 43%), and that students at private schools were almost twice as likely to be regularly completing work and receiving feedback than those in state schools (57% v 30%).

UCU said colleges and universities needed to make greater use of contextual data so that students progress according to their achievements. The union also backed the Sutton Trust’s call to move to a system in the future where students apply to university after they receive their results.

Last month, UCU warned that disadvantaged students could be the big losers under new assessment plans to replace exams this summer. Research shows that high-achieving, disadvantaged students are more likely to have their grades under-predicted than their wealthier contemporaries.

UCU general secretary, Jo Grady, said: ‘This survey appears to confirm fears that it is disadvantaged students who are most likely to lose out under this new system. Research shows that disadvantaged students fare badly when it comes to predicted grades, and they are less likely to be able to put life on hold to delay sitting exams, or have access to the tools required to navigate any appeals system.

‘We are worried about the numbers of students considering deferring or cancelling their studies, particularly in non-Russell Group universities. This could be a big step backwards for widening participation.

‘The context in which qualifications are achieved needs to be considered by colleges and universities. Not all achievements are equal and they should not be seen as such. Colleges and universities will need to make greater use of contextual data.

‘Allowing students to apply to university after they receive their results would bring us into line with the rest of the world, eliminate the use of controversial unconditional offers and ensure that university offers are based on actual achievement rather than unreliable estimates of potential.’


Government support package for universities doesn’t provide protection the sector needs

3 May 2020 | last updated: 4 May 2020

Responding to the support package announced by the Department for Education, UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:

‘While it is encouraging that the government appears to have recognised the need to provide support for universities, this package does not deliver the protection or stability that students, staff and the communities they serve so desperately need. The Office for Budget Responsibility says universities are most at risk of financial pain from the current crisis and they need more than IOUs to solve the problems they face.

‘The student number cap is a misnomer as it will enable the wealthiest universities to substantially grow their domestic student base at the expense of other more locally-focussed institutions. We cannot afford to let this dog-eat-dog approach risk substantial damage both to our country’s academic capacity and local economies which universities are such an important part of.

‘Instead of kicking the can down the road, the government must underwrite funding lost from a fall in domestic and international student numbers and remove incentives for universities to compete against each other at a time when we need to be pulling together.’

A report by London Economics for UCU highlighted a £2.5bn loss of income from tuition fees and teaching grants.

The Office for Budget Responsibility said education would be the sector hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, with the impact likely to be felt most by universities