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Advice & Information for Prospective University Students in the Wake of Covid-19

By admin June 4, 2020

It is an incredibly uncertain time for everyone right now, but for students who have seen their exams cancelled and who are hoping to go to university in September, there are many questions. In this article, My Baggage offer some advice and information to help reassure students during this overwhelming time.

Are all exams cancelled?

Yes, examinations will not be going ahead this summer as currently schools and colleges are closed to students. Instead of grading students on this, they will instead be marked on their overall performance throughout the year, any mock examinations they have completed, coursework, and other types of assessments that don’t involve exams. Every region in the UK will do this depending on their exam and education boards and the grading methods may be different depending on what region of the UK you live in.

How will AS & A Levels be graded?

In England, the regulatory body Ofqual has released guidelines for schools and colleges to follow when grading students. It’s up to the headteacher to submit the grades for students and to show the basis for these grades, based on the student’s recent mock grades, overall yearly performance, and any coursework they have completed. After they submit these grades, they will be reviewed. All grades will be submitted by the 29th of May. 
In Wales, their regulatory body Qualification Wales has released similar guidelines to colleges and schools. Welsh A Level grades will be based on the student’s mock results, AS results, and grades that teachers have assessed and assigned throughout their AS and A-Level education. For the Welsh Baccalaureate, there is still no direct decision made on how to grade this, however, it’s hoped to be decided upon soon. 
In Northern Ireland, students undertake exams from the CCEA board. Students will be graded based on their mock exam grades, their expected grade, and classroom assessment grades. 
In Scotland they sit a different set of exams called the Scottish Highers, these are overseen by the Scottish Qualifications Agency. Students will be graded based on an estimated grade taking into account their previous coursework and mocks similar to the other regions of the UK. 

How will the International Baccalaureate be graded?

The IB will be graded based on student’s coursework or previously completed assessments. Results will be made available to students from July 5th and you will either be awarded a course certificate or diploma.  

What about vocational examinations such as BTEC?

Students studying vocational qualifications will receive a calculated result based on their overall coursework and completed assignment grades. It does depend on their course, and some will be graded based on their tutor feedback and the predicted results of their assessments in 2020. 

Will this grading impact students in the future?

Exam awarding bodies do not want students to be at a disadvantage, so grades for this year will follow a similar pattern of previous years. The examination bodies are working with the government to ensure that grades are consistent and represent the students’ work thoroughly throughout their educational journey. Parents, students, and universities have been reassured that grades will be standardized.  

When will students get their grades?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland students are expected to receive their grades on the 13th August, In Scotland, students will receive their grades on the 4th August. If students are unhappy with their grade, they have the right to access an appeal, this will involve them having to re-sit an exam in Autumn, which their new grade will be based off. Autumn is still a suggested time, but this has not been confirmed as the current situation with Covid-19 is always evolving. However, exam bodies are working together to hopefully offer students an alternative if they are disappointed with their grades this year. 

What does this mean for my UCAS application?

To ensure student’s applications go ahead without any issues the university minister has put in place a moratorium on universities making offers. This means that there is a restriction on universities giving prospective students unconditional offers. Universities will be unable to offer this until the 4th of May. However, they can still offer students an unconditional offer if they have already achieved their qualifications and meet the criteria, they will have until the 18th June to accept the offer, but most universities will be flexible during this time. If you are unsure about what to do, contact your university directly, or the UCAS helpline to learn more about your options. It’s important to note that the moratorium is ONLY applicable to universities in England and does not apply to Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish universities.

What are universities saying?

Students have been hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis and many universities and student organizations such as the National Union of Students are recognizing this. For prospective students, these uncertain times have an impact. If you are concerned about attending university in September, contact the university you are planning to attend and ask what information or support they have available. Many universities are offering advice during this time. It is hoped that universities will be able to return to normal come September, but this is still yet to be confirmed. 
For current students, graduation ceremonies have been cancelled and will instead be rescheduled for when the academic term can return. They have also been hit hard as many work in the hospitality and retail industry and have lost their jobs and income. Some have been left paying for accommodation they can no longer live in due to social distancing. Many new graduates are feeling uncertain and unsure about how they will find work after graduation. If you are graduating and feeling anxious and concerned about your next steps, contact your university’s careers department for advice and support during this uncertain time.

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