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Heads of Department Message 31 March


Student Comms

Again (and following on from last week), a plea for caution in communications with students around teaching and assessment, particularly around the safety net policy. We need you to wait for the central guidance on determining averages for the safety net policy and this is being prepared. It’s a big piece of work and its important that we get it right. Please do not offer your own interpretations of the policy to students or staff. (You’ll know that I am not often moved to using bold text in any communications, so this really is a big deal)

I know that Departments value their autonomy in matters relating to teaching and learning, but this is a situation in which we need to put in place central guidelines and central policies to ensure that we treat students across the University fairly and consistently. If each department decides to put in place its own interpretation of the “safety net” then we risk a massive inconsistency and further stress and anxiety to students who may feel that their counterparts in one department are getting more favourable treatment than they are.

I know there are will be lots of questions from both staff and students (and I know that it is exceptionally frustrating being unable to answer those questions). But please, could you ask everyone to please be patient for a little longer – and emphasise that this is about making sure we have a clear framework and guidance that is as fair and consistent as it can be. The detail of the policy is coming, but for now, please can you stay with the message around the overall positive intent of the policy, our commitment to supporting continuing student success and that we are doing our utmost to ensure that students are not disadvantaged by the current situation.

If you have already offered any guidance to students on how the safety net will operate in advance of the central guidance please can you withdraw this to avoid any further confusion for students.

The Tuesday newsletter will offer some follow-up guidance for the time being on the safety net. It will remind everyone to please wait for central University guidance, and it will remind students that they should finish off current assessments and those set for Term 3.

And if you do want to know what is happening elsewhere – latest is here

I suspect we will find many other institutions following suit with a safety net policy.

Student Number Controls

You’ll have seen lots of discussion around the potential re-introduction of student number controls and this is under active consideration art DfE. And there has been a lot of press coverage with lobbying from various stakeholder groups. There are lots of agendas at play; I think there is a need to give some careful thought as to how we can get some stability in the sector as a whole at a time when we anticipate a very significant drop in international student mobility. Loss of income from international students will impact variably across the sector and there are real concerns about the consequences for research intensive institutions. The discussion that are taking place are factoring in research funding arrangements (QR, FEC) and options for targeted financial support. We’ll know more as the week progresses.

ARC Strategic Fund

It will come as no surprise to learn that ARC CoFs yesterday confirmed that we would not be operating the Strategic Investment Fund during this planning round. We will continue to support a number of continuing programmes including Faculty of Arts high achievers scholarships and studentships for the internally supported CDTs announced last year (although with slightly reduced numbers).



Professor Christine Ennew OBE