Advice for taught postgraduate students

Last updated: 11 May 2020

We understand many of our postgraduate students are professionals involved in the fight against COVID-19 and we thank you, on behalf of the whole University community, for your efforts.

In addition, others are finding the change of circumstances challenging due to issues, including caring commitments and self-isolation requirements. We will work with you to provide the support which will help you achieve your desired goal, which may include completing as planned; extending your study; or taking a break from your study.  We want to ensure that you have the best possible chance to complete your programme of study, and are determined that you do not suffer detriment to your programme as a consequence of external factors created by COVID-19.

Dissertation and Project adjustments

The dissertation process will be affected by the COVID-19 restrictions in place, and adjustments will be necessary. Faculties have already issued guidance but we want to ensure that everyone can complete their dissertation safely. You need to be in regular contact with your supervisor about the dissertation or project process.

Face-to-face data collection

The nature of the risks involved in fieldwork have escalated considerably, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, since your dissertation methodology was first planned. We know there are many instances of proposed face-to-face data collecting methodologies for dissertation work, and the following advice is intended to clarify the University’s position for completing your dissertation.

Due to current Government restrictions, face-to-face data collection in the UK should not take place, until further notice.  In many cases, this can be moved online through Skype-like tools or via a phone call. It is likely that planned interviewees will be happy to accommodate the change, as this step is in line with government advice. In instances where online replacement of interviews or face-to-face forum groups are not possible then these should be cancelled. You will then need to discuss the situation with your supervisor.

Where you are already physically located out with the UK, in a country where current health regulations allow the proposed data collection to take place, you should contact your supervisor to discuss how your research may be conducted safely. A new Risk Assessment fieldwork form should be completed to address the risks and any relevant mitigations.

Primary sources

Use of secondary data may be required in situations where accessing primary data is no longer an option. Your supervisor will guide your work.

Industry/practice placements

We understand that projects and placements requiring support and expertise from partners in the public, private, and third sectors are severely curtailed or cancelled in the current situation. Your supervisor will guide you to amend your work.

Specialist equipment

Where you are unable to proceed as planned due to lack of access to specialist equipment and facilities, your supervisor will guide you to amend your work.

In all affected cases, your dissertation write-up should capture these instances of changed conditions. This can be a reflective narrative on the impact it has had on the methodology, adjustments you made, and the effect this has had on the outcome of the work. In marking dissertations, our academics will take full account of the situation presented and how it was accommodated.

Communicating with your supervisor and faculty

Communication with your supervisor will no longer be face-to-face. Email, Microsoft Teams, Skype, telephone, or other forms of remote collaborative working will be required. You and your supervisor should agree on the format you intend to use, and the timescales and approaches to communication that will ensure the appropriate outcomes. Likewise, communication with the Faculty Office should not be face-to-face, and e-mail is the best option as staff are working remotely.

Dissertation submission

Dissertation submissions will be online only. You will not have to produce and deposit physical bound copies.

Extensions and submission

To accommodate these changes of working, your Faculty will review extensions to dissertation and other assessment deadlines, and advise you accordingly. If you and your supervisor feel you have real problems in completing the dissertation in the timescale due to the COVID-19 disruption, then asking for an extension is the first option.

For all other assessments, please apply through Canvas for extensions or speak to your module co-ordinator if you are experiencing or anticipate difficulties.

Assessment arrangements

I am worried I will not be able to undertake the alternative assessment or remote examination for my module due to the impact of COVID-19, what can I do?

You can request a deferral of the assessment to the resit/deferred diet which takes place 23-29 June. Let your module co-ordinator know your position so that they can determine if some flexibility may help you, we are keen to help.

What am I allowed to use when completing remote examinations or alternative assessments?

The assessments will all be “open book” which means you can access appropriate academic sources to help you complete your assessments as necessary. However, working in groups, helping or receiving help from other students or third parties is not permitted. Work will be submitted via Turnitin and staff will also check to ensure that work is in line with your current profile. Where staff have reasonable grounds for believing that a student has breached our academic misconduct policy, steps will be taken under the policy.

I would normally use books in the library to prepare for my assessments but the library is closed. What can I do?

All electronic resources are still available through the library and an increased range of books are available online. Your module co-ordinators can help you identify relevant resources and will take into account the resources available to you, in marking your work.

I do not have access to a laptop or other device/internet connection

We would ask you to take steps, where practical and safe and within government guidance, to access this equipment to enable you to complete your assessments. Microsoft Office 365 is available as a mobile app and can be used through a range of devices including mobile phones. We will also build in extra time in the assessments to give you sufficient time to work on unfamiliar devices.

Advice on accessing Office 365 is available here.

You can access Resources Lists and submit assignments via the Canvas for Students app, which is available from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play Store. However, if it is not possible for you to source a device or have internet access during the exam period, then it is possible for students to submit by uploading photographs of handwritten work via Canvas. This will be particularly helpful for science and maths-based subjects.

Where students are due to submit essay style assignments, this option is available only to students who have no access to devices or the internet, but do have a smart phone and signal. Students in this position, should seek approval from their Faculty in advance.

Remote examinations via Canvas, such as multiple-choice examinations, can be taken on a smart phone via the mobile Canvas App.

A guide to these various options is available on Canvas.

If students are unable to access any equipment then the normal arrangements for deferral will apply. The deferred examination guidance is available here.

Will extensions for remote examinations or alternative assessments be on offer?

No. As the assessments will be replacing examinations, no extensions will be offered.

What happens if I submit a remote examination or alternative assessment late?

As the assessments will replace examinations, no late submission will be accepted. Please note that submitting a “corrupted file” will be regarded as a non-submission so care must be taken to avoid this.

Can I defer a remote examination or alternative assessment?

Yes, you can apply for a deferred examination. The deferred diet takes place on 23-29 June 2020. The deferred examination guidance is available on the website. The criteria have been adjusted to include issues associated with COVID-19.

Compensation by Qualified Pass

Currently, if you narrowly fail a module, you are eligible for a compensated pass in certain circumstances. These principles will still apply in the current situation. Compensation decisions are made after the resit diets are complete in July and August.

Extenuating Circumstances

Applying to have your case considered by the Extenuating Circumstances Board is a last resort measure once extensions, deferred examinations, and leave of absence has already been considered. Detail of the Extenuating Circumstances policy is on the website.

Period of study and fees

If you are forced to halt study during a module or extend your period of study as a consequence of COVID-19, we will be as flexible as possible on timings, including the point at which you return, and the length of time leave of absence can be taken for. For example, if you have completed some assessment we will not make you take the whole module again on your return, but will allow you to re-join part way through with the assessment credit.

We will also be as flexible as possible in terms of fee payments. If you take a period of leave of absence, you will be able to do so with no financial detriment which means we will suspend fee payments until the point you return to study. At that point, the amount you will have left to pay will be the same as if you had not taken the leave of absence.