Please read our student and staff community guidance on COVID-19
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

PAIS COVID-19 Department Specific Information

The information below provides specific information regarding the PAIS department's implementation of central policies that have recently come in to force in the light of COVID-19 pandemic.

PAIS will follow University guidance, general information can be found on the University FAQs for students, we urge all students to check these pages and the twice weekly newsletters for important updates.

All staff are now working from home and can be contacted by email, but please be patient as response times may be affected. Stay safe, and please contact Wellbeing Support Services if you need any advice and support about the impact on your wellbeing.

Following the University introduction of a self-certification policy that supersedes existing PAIS extension policies, PAIS has updated the UG and PG extension policies:

  • The University has awarded a universal extension of two weeks to all assessment submission deadlines that fall between Monday 30th March 2020 and Tuesday 31st July 2020 inclusive.
  • In addition, the University has introduced a policy on self-certification which allows an automatic 5 university working day extension on eligible assessed work without the need for evidence.
  • All PAIS modules are eligible for self-certification. This includes summative essays and dissertations but not the exam replacement assignments. Self-certified extensions can be applied in addition to any existing extensions.
  • Requests for self-certified extensions should be submitted in the usual way via the Coursework Management tab on Tabula. Please state ‘self-certification’ as the reason for the request. There is no need to upload any documentary evidence.
  • Students can self-certify twice from now until the end of the academic year 2019-20. Self-certified extension requests can be applied to multiple assessments as long as their deadlines fall within the same five working day period.
  • Extensions must be requested before the submission deadline and no earlier than 5 working days before the deadline. Please bear in mind that requests submitted very close to the deadline may not be processed in time.
  • Requests for extensions longer than 5 working days must follow the usual process as set out in the UG Handbook or MA Handbook, but with the recognition that documentary evidence might be more difficult to obtain.
  • From 1 April 2020, each assessment can only be extended once. Any extensions applied prior to this date are not counted.
  • All extension requests go to the Director of Undergraduate Studies or the Director of Postgraduate Studies for approval. Questions about longer extensions should be directed to the Director of Student Wellbeing, Ben Richardson.

Please note that the following information relates to PAIS modules only. Remember that students are bound by the regulations of the Department in which they are taking a module. If students are taking an outside option in Sociology, for example, they must comply with the Sociology rules. Similarly, ‘outside’ students taking a PAIS module must follow the assessment rules set out here for PAIS modules.

For all intermediate and final year students who – for a PAIS module – have opted for assessment via examination in the summer term 2019/20, students should submit an assignment, or summative essay, instead of sitting physical examinations. This guidance on exam-replacement assessments extends to any intermediate and final year students who are registered for a PAIS first-year module. Please note that it is not possible to change your choice of assessment methods at this time.

Please remember that just because PAIS has replaced physical exams with assignments does not mean that students should expect this in any non-PAIS modules. It may be that outside department exams have been replaced with another alternative form of assessment, such as an online exam. Students should therefore follow the guidance from, and direct queries to, the relevant department for any outside modules.

Word Limits:

The word limits for all PAIS exam-replacement assignments will be as follows:

  • a single 2,000 word essay replaces a 90 minute exam;
  • a single 3,000 word essay replaces a 120 minute exam;
  • a single 4,000 word essay replaces a 180 minute exam.

This approach has been agreed upon so as to provide a sensible balance given the time available and the need to offer students the opportunity to engage with, and demonstrate their understanding of, debates and literature, and to thus meet learning outcomes.

We have opted for a single assignment to replace each exam as it was decided that asking for multiple essays for each module at this stage would place too heavy a burden on students. We also decided that the word length needed to vary depending on the length of exam being replaced, and that too short a word count for any single assignment would render it difficult for students to provide a substantive response.

Please stay within these word limits. The normal penalties for over-length and late submissions will apply.

Assignment Titles:

Students should choose assignment titles from the existing list of summative essay titles on module websites. Titles should be selected for the academic year in which the student studied the module. For the majority of students this will mean assignment titles are selected from the list of summative essay questions for 2019/20. However, for those students who are returning from temporary withdrawal or are completing assessments for a “sit without residence”, assignment titles should be selected from the list of summative essay questions that are available for the academic year in which the material was studies. Summative essay titles for current and previous can be found on Moodle.

As with “normal” summative essays students may submit an assignment on the same topic that they wrote a formative essay earlier on in the year, but should avoid duplicating material used in other summative assessments.

Given the timescale, the need to involve external examiners, and the ‘exam replacement’ nature of these assignments, it will NOT be possible to negotiate an assessment title. However, students should find the existing list of approved titles offers considerable choice


The deadline for all intermediate and final year exam-replace assignments will be noon on Wednesday 3 June 2020.

This deadline strikes a balance between giving all students sufficient time to write assignments and enabling PAIS staff sufficient time to undertake a robust and fair marking process (involving marking, moderation and external examiners) in advance of exam boards. It will be especially important – given the challenges faced by all staff working from home – to ensure sufficient time for a fair marking process.

The normal penalties for late submissions will apply.

Submission of exam-replacement assignments:

Exam replacement assignments will be submitted via Tabula in the usual way. You are required to use Word (.doc or .docx) format when uploading your electronic submission to Tabula. Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure that you upload the correct version of your assignment as the submitted version is the only one that will be assessed. Please include your student ID number (but not your name) on all assignments.


These are ‘exam replacements’. We are NOT expecting the same standard of work as in a normal summative essay, where you will have had a number of months to research and write them. We recognise that the timescale is shorter and also that students will be most likely starting AND finishing these assessments in lockdown conditions when students will not be able to access the library and may have limited access to online resources due, for example, to poor internet connections and difficult working environments.

More specifically:

We will expect these assignments to have a similar structure and style to a “normal” essay in so far as having a clear introduction and conclusion;

Students should avoid plagiarism, substantial use of the same material and other poor academic practices as they would in a “normal” essay (NB: if students are quoting from sources directly, or drawing upon published materials, then they should include references, and all assignments will go through Turnitin);

But there will be an understanding that these assignments will be more similar to the level of research and knowledge that students are expected to display in an exam answer rather than in a “normal” summative essay.

Please note, that we will use the existing PAIS marking criteria for summative work, which is currently used for both essays and exams.

Academic support:

All revisions classes/sessions in PAIS designed specifically to support exams have been cancelled. However, staff will be available for an equivalent number of online advice and feedback hours per week whereby meetings can be arranged via email and be held via telephone or online (e.g. Microsoft Teams/Skype) during which students can (among other things) discuss their ideas for “physical exam replacement assignments”. Please note that the expectation is not that students should receive written feedback on plans for their assignments.

There will be an online support workshop (this will replace the original planned sessions on exam/revision techniques). This will be uploaded online at which point you will be informed via email.

Extensions for exam-replacement assignments:

Please note that the deadline of 3 June 2020 is inclusive of the two-week universal extension given by the University for all assessments due between Monday 30th March 2020 and Tuesday 31st July 2020.

It should also be noted that exam-replacement essays are NOT eligible for a 5-day self-certified extension. This is because the deadline has already been pushed as far back as is possible to enable all students sufficient time to complete the assessments, whilst also giving markers, moderators and external examiners sufficient time to prepare materials for the exam boards.

Students cannot apply for extensions, but where students have a reasonable adjustment from Disability Services that allows for flexibility around deadlines then please contact the Director of Student Wellbeing, Dr Ben Richardson to discuss how best to implement this.

Mitigating circumstances for exam-replacement assignments:

As a Department, we have established procedures that allow us to consider mitigating circumstances at the Exam Board.

Mitigating circumstances are defined as exceptional, unforeseen and short-term events that are outside your control and have had a detrimental effect on your essay or dissertation. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Serious physical illness which requires treatment
  • Mental health issues for which you are receiving or awaiting support
  • Serious illness of someone close
  • Sudden change in personal circumstances such as repatriation or travel restrictions

Mitigating circumstances should be submitted via the ‘Personal circumstances’ tab on Tabula. There are different options to choose from in categorising these circumstances, but please do not worry too much about which of these fits best. The important thing is to make clear which pieces of assessed work were adversely affected, and how, by the mitigating circumstances. Given the wider situation, the University has also relaxed the evidence requirement for both coronavirus and non-coronavirus mitigations. Further information on suggested evidence.

Once you have reported your mitigating circumstances, you will receive an automated message from Tabula confirming submission. The information you reported will be sent to the PAIS Director of Student Wellbeing, Dr Ben Richardson. All mitigating circumstances submitted by the deadline will be considered by the PAIS Mitigating Circumstances Panel (MCP). The MCP grades the mitigating circumstances as severe, moderate, weak or rejected. On this basis, a recommendation is passed to the PAIS Exam Board about how to take this into account for the purposes of either progression to the next year of study or award of the final degree. These recommendations include, but are not limited to:

  • Waiving penalties for late submission of essays
  • Allowing a further first attempt at missed/failed essay
  • Consider awarding a higher classification of degree than merited by the marks returned, if it is clear that the overall average has been pulled down by a class or more due to the mitigating circumstances
  • Please note that Exam Boards cannot change marks awarded.

You will not receive information on the recommendation of the MCP. Only the final decision of the Exam Board will be communicated to you. The PAIS Director of Student Wellbeing can, on request, provide you with the grading and associated recommendation of your mitigating circumstances after the Exam Board decision.

The deadline for submitting mitigating circumstances for UG students is 5th June. If you have any questions on this process please contact Dr Ben Richardson.

Further information for UG

Further information for PGT

Please note that slightly different procedures and contact points may apply if PAIS is not your home department. Please direct queries to your departmental Senior Tutor.

University safety net:

Further details on the University’s safety net will be provided by the central University in due course.