LSE appreciates that some other institutions have decided to adopt a ‘no detriment’ policy for the treatment of their students’ performance in upcoming assessments. We have looked at a number of options from other institutions in the Russel Group and have weighed up what a ‘no detriment’ approach could look like for LSE. We looked at many approaches across UK institutions to help inform our approach to assessments, and considered all options carefully during this process.
No detriment is a ‘one size fits all’ approach that, for the reasons to do with the varied assessment patterns across our degree programmes (see ‘Why is LSE not introducing a mechanical no-detriment policy?’, above), cannot be equitably applied to all taught students. To produce final marks for those courses assessed 100% by end-of-year assessment would result in practices that, in the School’s view, would undermine the value of your degrees (for example, by combining marks from completed courses to determine a mark for a course in which no assessment has yet been attempted). While the School is ensuring we have supportive arrangements for students in place during the Summer Term assessment period, we are also concerned with making sure that your degree maintains its value across your future lives and careers.
The form of no detriment being used at some other universities, which LSE looked at carefully, involves final course marks being based on completed summative coursework. But many LSE students take courses that are assessed 100% by end-of-year exams/assessments: 1597 students (15%) do not have any assessments weighted 50% or more outside the Summer Term assessment period for any course to inform a no detriment approach. It would be inequitable for LSE students on courses with completed summative coursework to have their final course marks based on that coursework, without the need to complete the Summer Term online assessment. This is because this option could not be offered to students on courses assessed 100% by end-of-year assessment, as there is nothing on which their final mark could be based. In many cases, it would also be difficult for students to demonstrate that they had achieved the overall learning outcomes from the course without taking the final assessment.
Another approach to addressing this is to base marks on previous years’ performance. LSE looked at this option carefully but concluded that awarding a final mark for one course based on performance in another course (or courses) is academically unsound because of the different types of pedagogy that underpins different courses. This would also undermine academic standards at LSE and the same principle applies to the proposal to automatically award a 2:2 classification as a safety net to all students. Instead, our focus has been on finding the best options for supporting students through the assessment period and maintaining standards to benefit students.
Another university's policy divides courses into two types: those that have at least 50% assessed by summative coursework, and those with less than 50% assessed in this way. For type 1 courses, students will have their final marks calculated on whichever is the higher of their combined total assessments or just their assessed coursework. For type 2 courses, students’ final marks for courses will be based on many of the approaches we have adopted here at LSE: adjusted weighting of Summer Term assessments, scaling marks on particular papers where anomalies are identified and adjusting classification boundaries. The difference at LSE is that we are applying our approach to all students, to ensure a fair and equitable assessment period for all rather than a two-tier system that it would create at our School.
The approach that other universities have adopted are unique to their structure and regulatory frameworks. One such university has decided to classify finalists based on their previous year’s classification. This is an approach that is unique to this university because of the way they classify their degrees: each year of study is classified, rather than students’ overall performance, as here at LSE.
How we can best support students – during both the upcoming assessment period and beyond – has been the subject of ongoing discussion at every level of the School, and our priority as we navigate assessments in 2020. We accept that views amongst our community vary on the best approach, and we have considered suggestions and ideas from across our community.
To ensure a flexible, equitable and supportive approach that is appropriate for LSE, we have made the following suite of adjustments, which work together to provide a comprehensive and supportive mechanism for assessment in 2020. Through our no disadvantage approach we are:
- Revising our approach to marking, and reviewing past student performance data at the time of marking to identify and adjust for anomalies in the performance of students during the Summer Term 2020 assessment period. Marks will only be adjusted up because of this review and not down.
- Adjusting the Extension policy, relaxing the requirement for evidence where it is not possible for students to provide it.
- Moving to self-certified deferral for students, so that students can more easily opt-out of taking some or all of their assessments now, with no penalty. The deferral form will be available from Monday 27 April on the LSE website.
- Extending and simplifying the Exceptional Circumstances policy, relaxing the requirement for evidence in some circumstances and more generously defining borderline mark profiles.
These measures, along with our reframing of all closed book exams into accessible assessment types that can be completed within longer assessment windows, make up LSE’s no disadvantage approach. You can find out more information at this link.