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Breaking: Aberdeen University Senate votes in favour of No detriment Policy

Despite some heated exchanges, the policy was passed overwhelmingly by the academic body

By: Anttoni Numminen

Image courtesy of author.

The University of Aberdeen’s Senate has voted in favour of a Comprehensive Measures (No Detriment) Policy in a meeting this afternoon. It comes as the institution’s top academic body overturned its previous decision to oppose a similar No Detriment Policy (NDP) in early February.

This Senate meeting’s decision was much more conclusive than last month’s, with even the most opposed section of the policy, automatic higher classification, receiving 90 votes for and only 18 against.

The vote was divided into three parts: the extended borderline, the automatic higher classification upgrade and the lowering of required assessments to 70%.

Screengrab from Senate meeting 17 March 2021.

In practice, the NDP will extend borderlines from 0.50-0.99 GPA to 0.01-0.99 GPA while also automatically upgrading students to the higher degree class/postgraduate award for those sitting in the top half of the extended borderline i.e. 0.50-0.99 GPA for students in programme year 3 or above in the academic year 2020/21.

In addition, it will relax the amount of assessment that is required to be completed to allow an overall course mark, from 75% to 70% for all assessment undertaken in the remainder of 2020/21.

Despite the conclusive result and Principal George Boyne asking everyone to “act in a spirit of forgiveness”, there were some heated exchanges when it came to discussing the policy, with accusations of “mudslinging” and “emotional pressure tactics”.

Prof Hazel Hutchison said: “I don't think it's at all wrong to appeal to emotions or to ask for generosity in a situation which has been so difficult for so many people.”

Head of the Law School, Professor Greg Gordon he would be voting for the policy despite concerns about grade inflation. Adding that he felt “this was not the year to take a stand on the issue.”

Student President, Cecilia Wallbäck spoke strongly in favour of the policy at the meeting, highlighting students’ appreciation of the hard work staff had done for them.

The Students’ Association (AUSA) played an important part in drafting a new policy for the Senate to vote on. However, many will see the student-led campaign ‘Students For A No Detriment Policy’ as the biggest influence in getting an NDP passed.

In a campaign that at times took national proportions, with local MSP Kevin Stuart contacting the Education Minister about the original Senate decision, the student activists are pleased with the result.

Speaking to the Gaudie, Chair of the NDP Campaign, Natalie Campbell said she was very pleased with the outcome of the vote and “unbelievably proud” of the campaign committee and of the whole student body.

“The Senate has heard us loud and clear and I would like to thank all the Senators who spoke so favourably for the policy in this meeting and previous. Well done to everyone involved, without you this wouldn't have been possible!” said Campbell.

In a Facebook post, the campaign group thanked those who had been involved in the campaign, adding: “This has shown that the University is willing to help its students through an extremely difficult and unusual time for everyone. Thank you to all the staff who stood by this policy and listened and supported students.”

The Students’ Association said it was delighted to announce that “the new version of the No Detriment Policy has passed.”

Professor Ruth Taylor, Vice-Principal (Education) said the University was committed to fair and consistent assessment and throughout the pandemic and had prioritised the well-being of its students.

"Therefore, the approval today at Senate of our ‘Comprehensive Measures for Fair and Consistent Assessment in the Context of Covid-19’ is extremely positive for all. The Measures will protect our students from disadvantage and we can now move forward with putting our measures in place.

“The Measures, which were developed in collaboration with Aberdeen University Students’ Association, will be published this week and we will be in touch with students soon to provide them with more details on what this will mean for them.”


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