Preston graduate saved students' grades during the pandemic- as long as they turned in their assignments

A 23 year old graduate helped to change university policy and has reflected on his campaign at a tumultuous time for students and young people.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:34 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:36 pm
Policing and Criminal Investigation graduate and current UCLan Masters student James Menzies, 23.

James Menzies, a graduate and current masters student at UCLan campaigned for the Preston university to implement a 'no detriment policy'.

The rule aims to safeguard students' grades, meaning that they would not be awarded grades lower than those they received in past exams and assessments.

'No detriment' comes into force as long as students at the university complete all of their assessments and aims to mitigate low performance as a result of Covid disruption.

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But the policy has not always been in place and James was delighted when the university listened to his concerns.

"I was hopeful that UCLan would accept my recommendations to implement the no detriment policy, as it was for the benefits of students," James said.

"At the time of creating the petition in March 2020, only a handful of universities had done so and many had refused to implement one."

The Policing and Criminal Investigation graduate passed with flying colours in summer 2020 when he achieved first class honours.

This was despite lockdown, periods of university closures and online teaching that affected students across the country and James wanted to help others who may have been struggling.

"UCLan had only given students a five working day extension on all assignments, which was appreciated but was simply not enough given the surreal circumstances we were in," he said.

"The no detriment policy meant students would not receive a grade lower than their pre-Covid average, as long as they submitted and passed all assignments.

"I strongly believed that it was only fair and right for the University of Central Lancashire to adopt this policy."

While the university helped less well-off students by giving them access to the internet and laptops, James said this did not account for students 'without a quiet place to study' during lockdown.

"Some students were carers or became carers and lived with high risk family members," he said.

"Some students were high risk and vulnerable themselves and some were part-time or full-time key workers, who had to increase their working hours, such as student nurses or supermarket workers.

"Some students had mental health conditions, that were heightened by staying indoors by themselves."

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Because of this, James decided to start a petition with fellow student Hannah Tyler which went on to garner more than 3,000 signatures.

"I joined as many course and society Facebook pages as possible, to share the petition on," he said.

It was a success and, in April 2020, UCLan confirmed it would be adopting a 'no detriment' policy.

"Whilst I cannot say for sure, it is highly likely that this decision was made as a result of the petition," James added.

The graduate has continued his studies at UCLan and is working towards a Masters degree in financial investigation.

Despite disruption to his university experience due to Covid, he says that the quality of teaching was 'good throughout' and he relishes the opportunity to learn from policing lecturers with 'extensive experience in their field'.

The aspiring financial investigator hopes that face-to-face teaching will continue as normal now students have been allowed to return to university.

"I believe that if government guidelines allow, then all teaching should be in person, the same as it was pre-Covid," James said.

"In March last year, staff were thrown into the unknown, just like students were and I believe I was lucky with the quality of teaching on my particular course.

"However, having spoken to other students, some courses were cut short or the quality of teaching was massively reduced online."

In a statement on student grades during the pandemic, UCLan said: "We implemented a ‘no detriment policy’ in direct response to the sudden changes that occurred in both teaching and assessment delivery.

"For our final year students, we know assessments and exams will be a culmination of years of learning and we are determined that this global crisis will not be detrimental to their final qualification.

"Therefore, provided assessments are attempted, student performance will be judged as equal to, if not better than previous assessments, or against any previous cohort."

According to the university, the policy will 'change slightly' this academic year but it has reassured students that 'additional safeguards' will continue to be in place for students disadvantaged by Covid.

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