Monday 27 April 2020

All PGT student email

Additional measures to protect and support the academic achievement of our PGT students during the Covid-19 emergency

Dear Postgraduate Taught student

Since before the introduction of the York undergraduate student “Safety Net” two weeks ago, we have been giving a lot of thought to what we can do to give similar reassurance to taught postgraduates. Your degrees are substantially different from undergraduate degrees (as you’ll know) both in terms of intensity and duration. That, combined with the substantial differences between the programmes we offer, and the fact that the University doesn’t exclusively run semester-long modules, have made it a difficult problem to solve. Thank you for your patience while we have taken the time to develop something that is helpful, fair and maintains the academic integrity of your qualification.

We know that PGT students have been concerned about the potential impact of Covid-19 on their ability to achieve their academic potential this year and want reassurance that this will be recognised as we calculate their results. We also know that our students want us to protect academic standards, so that the value of their awards are not called into question in the future.

Taught postgraduate degrees are not classified in the same way as undergraduate degrees, but we do use ‘merits’ and ‘distinctions’ as a way of recognising particular levels of achievement.

Our approach to supporting our PGT community has been to examine the way in which we apply the marking scheme, and in particular the factors we take into account to award ‘merit’ and ‘distinction’. In normal circumstances we expect that our students will demonstrate consistently very good or excellent work across the full range of their assessments in order to achieve a merit or distinction. But we are not dealing with normal circumstances and we know that working and studying in such different times may mean that some of our students’ performance may dip on some elements of the work completed during the pandemic.

Normally, to get a distinction, you need to get at least 70% overall, AND at least 70% in your Independent Study Module (ISM- your dissertation or project). You also cannot have failed anything. And to achieve a merit you need to get 60% in each of those things, and can only have failed 20 credits, with no marks below 40%.

To reflect the challenges facing our students we are introducing more flexibility in how we will calculate a classification of merit or distinction.

So, for students enrolled on a taught postgraduate degree right now, we will award distinctions to any student who receives an average of 70% in their taught modules OR their ISM. We’ll also allow you to have up to 20 credits in modules that you have failed at first attempt, so long as you get a mark of at least 40 in all of them.

Similarly, we will award merits to any student who receives an average of 60% on their taught modules OR at least 60% on their ISM. You’ll be able to receive a merit with up to 40 credits of modules that you’ve failed at first attempt, so long as no more than 20 credits have marks below 40%.

NB: This doesn’t apply to York Online courses, but other measures are being put in place for those degrees, which have a very different structure. We are working to determine whether it can apply to HYMS masters degrees.

Like the undergraduate safety net, this provides a protective factor for your degree classification. Importantly, as with the undergraduate “safety net”, students still need to meet all the usual progression and award criteria - i.e. you need to pass your degree as normal.

Unlike the UG approach however, we cannot provide right now an indication of your best possible outcome in advance of you completing all of your assessments. This is why we are not calling it a “safety net”. But you will have a very good idea of what your average is on your taught component, and this should provide you with a similar level of reassurance when your department meets to determine if you’ll progress to the ISM section of the degree (mid- to late-May for most departments).

We have worked closely with departments to ensure they can provide the best possible support to our PGT students during this period. We are also providing guidance which will see due consideration given to our assessment criteria for ISMs.

We have been immensely grateful to the GSA and YUSU throughout the development of these measures.

I would like to offer you very best wishes with your ongoing studies this term.

Kind regards

John Robinson

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Learning and Students