The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted every walk of life. Higher education is no exception to that: universities throughout the world have needed to adapt how their courses are delivered to students. Like other UK universities, we have thought carefully about how each year of our undergraduate degrees need to change through the latter part of this academic year when we are not able to run our usual in-person teaching, learning and assessments on campus and in placement settings.
What does this mean for first-year students?
We wrote to you before the Easter break to confirm that we were cancelling the on-campus exams planned for first-year students from April to June 2020. Other types of assessment – like essays, assignments and lab reports – are mostly continuing, although we do need to amend the nature of some assessments that usually happen on-campus, like presentations.
This means that we will have a reduced profile of your achievement in your first-year. The marks that we would normally have from your summer exams will be unavailable, and we are, therefore, relying on the marks from assessments already completed through the year and any remaining assignments you are completing now. If you want to know more about progression decisions, we have explained these at the bottom of this page.
Can I still continue into my second year?
We are relaxing the usual criteria for progression into the second year of study so that the vast majority of students simply progress. In practice, this means that if you have passed the assessments that you have completed over the year and if we have not already communicated serious concerns about your attendance or engagement through the year, you will progress into the second year of your course. We will confirm this to you formally after your department’s first-year Exam Board meets, which will be in late July or early August for the majority of full-time courses. We expect that the vast majority of students will fall into this group.
We are working across the University to ensure that you are then well-prepared for the rest of your studies. This includes the Warwick Online Learning Certificate, which all first-year students should enrol on in Term 3. For some courses that were due to have taught modules in Term 3, it may also include the delayed delivery of these or the integration of their content into other modules.
We are reserving the option to delay or prevent progression into the second year for a small number of students (we expect this be under 5% of first-years). If you have failed some of your assessments this year and we have already shared our concerns about your attendance, engagement or academic achievement, you may fall into this category. We will confirm this to you formally after your department’s first-year Exam Board meets, which will be in late July or early August for the majority of full-time courses. You will then be required to complete resits in September for assessments that you have previously failed or missed, as would usually be the case for first-year students in this situation. If you demonstrate improvement and show that you have the potential to meet the required level of academic achievement in future years of your course, you will then be able to progress to your second year. If you do not demonstrate improvement and we still have concerns, we may ask you to re-take part of your first year or to withdraw from your course.
To be clear – needing to take a resit assessment in September because you have previously failed or missed an assessment is not enough by itself to prevent your progression to your second-year. However, you will still want to work hard for these resits as the marks appear on your transcript / HEAR for future employers to see, and they may still inform decisions about whether you are eligible for certain opportunities (e.g. Study Aboard years).
How do I know if I might not progress without further consideration?
If you have failed any assessments and your department has shared their concerns about your attendance, engagement or academic achievement, we strongly encourage a discussion with your Personal Tutor as soon as possible. They will not be able to formally confirm whether or not you will progress – this decision will be made by the Exam Board in late July or early August. However, they will be able to advise on how you can be in the best position possible to succeed in your resits in September. You should also engage with the Warwick Online Learning Certificate to continue your development through Term 3.
If you do not fall into this category, you will progress into your second year.
Are there any exceptions?
For courses in the sciences with lab-based modules, we normally require that these be passed in order to proceed to the second year. This ensures that students are safe to operate in labs as their study and research become more independent and self-directed. As it is not practical to re-sit a lab module in the same way as other forms of assessment, these modules need to be passed on their first attempt. Where they are failed, and there are no mitigating circumstances, we would usually require a student to withdraw from their studies. As there would still be risks to the safety of students and staff if students progressed without the requisite lab knowledge and skills, we are not removing this particular requirement for progression on the affected courses. However, we will ensure that any student whose performance in lab modules is affected by mitigating circumstances (including Covid-19 related circumstances) if offered the opportunity to take these elements of the course again next year.
Some courses enable students to enter a regulated profession. For example, our undergraduate courses can lead to becoming a Doctor, a qualified Accountant, a Digital Healthcare Scientist, a registered Psychotherapist or a Chartered Engineer. If your course has accreditation with a professional, statutory or regulatory body, we may be required to take a different approach so that we don’t compromise the accreditation of the course and your ability to enter the profession. Typically, this means that we have to run some of the most crucial first-year exams at a later point in your course so that you can still meet certain standards required for the profession. Your academic department has identified where this is the case and will let you know if any assessments or modules will be delayed rather than cancelled. In most cases, we do not anticipate that this will stop you from progressing into your second year at the start of the next academic year (or equivalent for part-time students).
For medical students on the MBChB, we can confirm that your phase one examinations will need to go ahead and are currently being scheduled. They will need to be passed in order to progress to phase two of your course.
How will the changes to my first-year impact on the classification of my degree?
There will be no impact. For many degree courses, marks from the first year do not contribute to the overall classification of the degree (e.g. first-class, upper second-class). For those courses where marks from the first year do contribute, we will typically change this for your year group so that it no longer contributes, or where that is not possible, we will ensure that the cancelled exams do not negatively impact on your classification.
Progression decisions explained
On multi-year degree courses, like our Foundation, Bachelor’s and Integrated Master’s degrees, we typically split the course into levels and require students to demonstrate a certain level of achievement before they ‘progress’ between levels. For a traditional Bachelor’s degree course that is studied full-time over three years, these progression decisions are taken at the end of the first year and at the end of the second year. This helps us to identify students who need additional opportunities to demonstrate the required level of achievement before they progress into the next year, which might be in the form of resitting particular assessments, restarting the year or taking a break to manage difficult personal circumstances before resuming their studies. It also helps to identify the small number of students for whom their course is not proving to be the right option for them so that they can transfer to another course or withdraw from their studies at Warwick. The vast majority of students (over 95%) do progress to the second year of their course after their first-year summer exams or after a simple resit assessment.