Exams and Assessment Announcement

Cambridge University has now announced a package of exam mitigation measures, after publicly stating at the beginning of term that they would not be offering a no detriment policy for students taking exams this year.

Exams and Assessment Announcement

Cambridge University has now announced a package of exam mitigation measures [1], after publicly stating at the beginning of term that they would not be offering a no detriment policy for students taking exams this year.

This is a testament to the hard work of students and student representatives, who have spent the past few weeks pushing for a set of measures that works for students and acknowledges the unique disruption that they have suffered throughout this academic year. 

It proves the power of lobbying and collective bargaining, as students have been mobilising within their subject cohorts to hold their faculties, departments and schools to account on this issue. Though it’s not everything we pushed for, together we have brought the University to the negotiating table and secured a package of measures which is a vast improvement on original proposals. 

Most importantly, the package of measures provides a list of potential changes to examination or coursework requirements which will now be decided on by faculties and departments. These are not guaranteed changes however, and will have to be negotiated within departments by the 26th Feb. We believe this is our most significant win, particularly as students are going to be directly involved in the process of agreeing which options are best suited to their subject cohort.


The options that are currently under discussion in faculties are listed below:


  • Coursework extensions (individual or blanket, up to 14 days, without going through usual University process)

  • Changes to dissertation titles, changes to dissertation structure/content, option to replace dissertation with extended essays

  • Reducing number of questions that students are required to answer in an exam or increasing the choice of optional questions

  • Reducing the number of required supervisions for essays or other coursework

  • Excluding students’ lowest mark achieved in an element of assessment when calculating their class (this must be applied to the entire student cohort and should only be done where the number of papers allows for this without the learning outcomes being compromised)

  • Making an element of the assessment pass/fail only for the whole cohort so a mark does not contribute to a student's class

  • Changing the length of the exam (e.g. moving from 6 hour to 24 hour exams)

  • Moving from exam to coursework

  • Not classing first or second years but instead moving to an honours pass/fail. the assessment would still be summative and marks would be included on the transcript


We believe that adopting a selection of these modifications will allow faculties and departments to significantly lessen the pressure on students and support them to fulfil their potential, in an acknowledgement of the impact of the pandemic on their capacity to engage with their studies. As the SU, we will be supporting students and academic reps throughout this process to ensure that they are properly consulted, and that appropriate modifications are locally adopted in every faculty and department.

Additional blanket measures outlined in the package include a system of cohort equity, which will ensure that class distribution is in line with previous years, and the option to provide impact statements for dissertations and coursework which summarise any issues you faced while completing the project. As a result of pressure from the SU, it has also been agreed that first and second years will automatically progress to their next year of study. 

Additionally, the criteria and options for individual mitigations will be expanded for those in particularly difficult personal circumstances. We strongly encourage students to get in touch with their Tutors, Directors of Studies and departments for individual support throughout the exam period. You can read about individual mitigation in more detail here [2]. 

We appreciate how this year has been incredibly challenging for students, both in Cambridge and studying remotely. We are hopeful that this package of measures will go some way to alleviating the stress and pressures produced by the current circumstances, and would urge you to communicate to your academic rep and/or your faculty/department any strong feelings you have about the options available for your subject’s exam modifications. You can find the academic rep for your course here: www.cambridgesu.co.uk/yourvoice/academicreps/findmyrep/.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us (sabbs@cambridgesu.co.uk).

As always, if you are in particularly difficult individual circumstances you can get in contact with the Student Advice Service for free, confidential support and advice: www.cambridgesu.co.uk/support/advice/ 


Take care in the meantime!


[1] www.cam.ac.uk/coronavirus/students/guidance-for-all-students/assessment-2020-21/assessment-mitigation-2020-21

[2] www.cambridgestudents.cam.ac.uk/your-course/examinations/mitigation 


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