Safety Net Policy

The University announced our safety net policy for all exams and assessments from 15 March 2020, which recognises the value of marks you have already achieved for modules completed before that date.

We have been working hard to ensure the policy is as fair as possible for everyone.

Each module will be marked as usual, and you still need to complete all your exams and assessments. As long as you pass the year, your overall grade for this year will not fall below your safety net grade.

For courses that are subject to external professional regulation and accreditation, we are working closely with the relevant bodies to clarify how this can be applied. Your department will provide more information as soon as possible and will keep you up to date.

Quick Glance Guide to the Safety Net Policy

How your safety net will be calculated and applied

Level 1 students: How the Safety Net will be applied

From 15 March 2020, all assessments and exams will be marked on a pass/fail basis. No end of year average will be calculated.

You still need to pass your modules and you will normally be required to resit at a later date if you fail any of them.

For a small number of programmes first year students will still receive marks as normal, for example where there is a regulatory requirement to do so. If you are on one of these programmes your department will let you know.

All students can expect to receive feedback on their performance over the year.

Level 2+ continuers: How the Safety Net will be calculated and applied

Each module will be marked as usual and you still need to complete all your exams and assessments to be considered for progression or award.

At the end of the year, your average grade will be calculated based on your results.

As long as you pass all your modules, your overall grade for this year will not fall below your safety net.

How your safety net will be calculated:

  • If you have completed 40 credits or more between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall weighted average of those marks, or an overall weighted average of your previous academic year - whichever is higher.
  • If you have completed fewer than 40 credits between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall weighted average of your previous academic year.

Credits are awarded when you successfully complete a module. Therefore, the safety net is based on the modules for which all teaching and assessment was completed before 15 March 2020 and for which you could be awarded credit. This applies even if you hadn’t received your marks for those modules before that date.

Where your average grade based on actual results is lower than your safety net grade, your year average will be based on the safety net. In due course, this safety net grade will also be used to inform, but does not determine, your final degree classification.

Where your average grade based on actual results is higher than your safety net grade, then the Safety Net Policy will not apply to you, as it would be of no benefit.

Examples of how your safety net grade will be calculated

Final year students: How the Safety Net will be calculated and applied to my degree class

Each module will be marked as usual and you still need to complete all your exams and assessments to be considered for progression or award.

At the end of the year, your average grade will be calculated based on your results:

  • If you have completed 40 credits or more between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall weighted average of those marks, or an overall weighted average of your previous academic year - whichever is higher.
  • If you have completed fewer than 40 credits between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall weighted average of your previous academic year.

Credits are awarded when you successfully complete a module. Therefore, the safety net is based on the modules for which all teaching and assessment was completed before 15 March 2020 and for which you could be awarded credit. This applies even if you hadn’t received your marks for those modules before that date. This safety net grade will be used to inform your final degree calculation.

Your final award will then be calculated in the first instance using the University’s General Regulations and those regulations specific to individual programmes of study, and based on actual module marks (affected and unaffected). The classification determined from this calculation will be compared against your benchmark. Where your benchmark is lower than this calculation, or does not affect the recommended classification/award, then the classification/award determined will stand.

Where your benchmark is higher and places you in a borderline category, the examination board should recommend the classification which, having regard to all the evidence before them, best reflects your overall performance.

Where your benchmark is higher and suggests you should receive a higher classification/award the higher classification/award should be recommended, so long as you meet all other requirements as outlined in regulations for the programme are met.

Examples of how your safety net grade will be calculated

Postgraduate taught students: How the Safety Net will be calculated and applied

Each module will be marked as usual and you still need to complete all your exams and assessments.

At the end of the year, your average grade will be calculated based on your results.

As long as you pass your modules at the level required for your programme, your overall grade for this year will not fall below your safety net.

How your safety net will be calculated:

  • If you have completed 60 credits or more since the start of your course, it will be an overall weighted average of those marks, or an overall average of your best 150 credits this academic year - whichever is higher.
  • If you have completed fewer than 60 credits since the start of your course, it will be an overall average of your best 150 credits this academic year.

Credits are awarded when you successfully complete a module. Therefore, the safety net is based on the modules for which all teaching and assessment was completed before 15 March 2020 and for which you could be awarded credit. This applies even if you hadn’t received your marks for those modules before that date.

Where your average weighted grade based on actual results is lower than your safety net grade, your year average will be based on the safety net grade. This will inform your final award.

Where your average weighted grade based on actual results is higher than your safety net grade, then the Safety Net Policy will not apply to you, as it would be of no benefit.

Examples of how your safety net grade will be calculated

Foundation year students: How the Safety Net will be calculated and applied

Each module will be marked as usual and you still need to complete all your exams and assessments to proceed with your studies.

At the end of the year, your average weighted grade will be calculated based on your results.

As long as you pass all your exams and assessments, your overall grade for this year will not fall below your safety net.

How your safety net will be calculated:

  • If you have completed 40 credits or more between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall weighted average of those marks, or an overall average of your best 100 credits this academic year - whichever is higher.
  • If you have completed fewer than 40 credits between 1 September 2019 and 15 March 2020, it will be an overall average of your best 100 credits this academic year.

Credits are awarded when you successfully complete a module. Therefore, the safety net is based on the modules for which all teaching and assessment was completed before 15 March 2020 and for which you could be awarded credit. This applies even if you hadn’t received your marks for those modules before that date.

Where your average weighted grade based on actual results is lower than your safety net grade, your year average will be based on the safety net grade.

Where your average grade based on actual results is higher than your safety net grade, then the Safety Net Policy will not apply to you, as it would be of no benefit.

Examples of how your safety net grade will be calculated

Who applies the Safety Net and when does this happen?

In June or July, your department will hold what is known as an Examination Board, where academic staff from your department will be joined by an External Examiner from another University to look at all your marks and to make decisions around progression and the award of final degrees. They also look at things like extenuating circumstances and make decisions about students who fall at the borderline of two degree classifications.

In the first instance the Examination Board will look at whether you have done enough to progress to the next year of your course or to be awarded a degree, based on your actual marks and using what are called General Regulations and Programme Regulations. The last are specific rules that apply to your programme.

They will then look at your safety net and determine whether it needs to be applied. Where you have done better than your safety net, or it doesn't change your degree classification/award, the safety net won’t apply

Where your safety net raises your year average or moves you into a higher degree classification, the safety net will be applied, so long as you have met all the requirements outlined in the regulations for your programme.

What is an Examination Board and what power does it have?

Examination boards (often referred to as exam boards) are where universities look at students' results and make decisions about whether they have done enough to be awarded the 'credits' they need to progress to the next level of study or to be awarded a degree. All UK universities operate exam boards and there is a reciprocal arrangement whereby academics sit on exam boards at other universities as 'external examiners' to make sure that decisions are fair and standards maintained across the sector. The powers that exam boards have at Sheffield are set out in the General Regulations that form part of the University's Calendar. Ultimately, exam boards make recommendations to the University Senate which has the power to award degrees.

The Safety Net Policy may inform a student's progress and/or final award and this is why it is being considered at the relevant exam board. The role of the exam board and the external examiner is to make sure that it is applied fairly and consistently and that there is a record kept of any decisions made.

As the University's General Regulations set out very clearly what is needed for a student to progress or graduate, the Exam Board will tend to focus on borderline cases or where there are extenuating circumstances that need to be taken into account for a particular student.

Find out more about how exam board operate at Sheffield

I’m a postgraduate taught student who is on for a merit/distinction. How does the Safety Net affect this?

For some programmes, if a student achieves a certain overall average and a certain mark in a set number of units, they can be awarded a merit or distinction.

If you are a student on one of these programmes, and applying the safety net pushes your average into the band for a merit or a distinction, you will normally also have to achieve any other conditions for the award of a merit/distinction. However, Examination Boards do have ‘the discretion to recommend the award which, having regard to all the evidence before them, best reflects your overall performance.’ This means that if you come close and they are satisfied you would have achieved a merit/distinction had you not been impacted by recent disruptions they can use their judgement as to whether to make the award.

Where does the Safety Net Policy apply?

I study a course which is subject to external professional regulations, will the Safety Net Policy apply to me?

For courses that are subject to external professional regulation and accreditation, we are working closely with the relevant bodies to clarify how this can be applied.

Please contact your department for more information about how this affects you.

Where will the Safety Net Policy not apply?

If you fail a module

To benefit from the Safety Net Policy, you must achieve a minimum pass mark in all of your modules for the academic year or be considered for a conceded pass/award in line with the Regulations. You cannot opt out of assessments after 15 March.

If you fail an exam or assessment this semester and are not approved for progression/award, you will have the opportunity to resit in the summer. In this instance, the overall result for the module will be capped at a passing grade as usual.

After you have passed all your required assessments, the Safety Net Policy will be applied and your overall grade for this year will not fall below your safety net grade.

If you use unfair means

As with any other exams and assessments, if you are found to be using unfair means, you will be penalised. This may range from the University awarding no grade for the piece of work or exam, or expulsion in serious cases. In these cases, the Safety Net Policy would not be used to make up for the penalties applied.

Find out more about unfair means

I am/have been studying abroad this academic year, will the policy apply to me?

The University will consider your situation on a case by case basis, taking into account:

  • The nature of your studies
  • The situation in your country of study
  • The adjustments were made by your host university
  • Whether you have been able to continue studying remotely from the UK

Please contact your department if you have specific questions.

I am/have been on a placement this academic year, will the policy apply to me?

The University will consider your situation on a case by case basis, taking into account:

  • The nature of your placement
  • Your department’s placement rules and regulations
  • Professional regulations and requirements applied by external organisations
  • Your contract of employment

Please contact your department if you have specific questions.

I am a visiting student at Sheffield, will the policy apply to me?

The University will consider your situation on a case by case basis, taking into account:

  • The nature of your studies
  • The adjustments made by your department
  • Whether you have been able to continue studying remotely

If you were registered for Autumn Semester modules and assessment only, your grades will be unaffected and the Safety Net will not be applied.

Please contact your department if you have specific questions.

My studies or assessments do not fall into the standard University calendar, will the Safety Net Policy apply to me?

Yes. The Safety Net Policy will be applied to any students who have studied for and completed assessments since 15 March which have been affected by COVID-19.

I am sitting modules for credit (eg. CPD) but not as part of my full programme of study, will the Safety Net Policy apply to me?

The University will consider your situation on a case by case basis. Please first speak to the department(s) you are studying with.

I am studying a Masters, does the Safety Net Policy apply if I am resubmitting my dissertation?

If you are re-submitting a dissertation where the original piece of work was submitted before Sunday 15 March, the Safety Net Policy will not apply.

If you have undertaken a new project, or significantly changed the content of your dissertation - to the extent that it may be considered as a novel piece of work - then the Safety Net Policy may apply. In this instance, your overall mark may be capped in line with the General Regulations and you must still meet minimum quality standards.

I’m studying an integrated Masters programme and need to get a certain weighted mean grade to remain on the MEng. How will the safety net affect me?

In order to progress on the MEng, you still need to achieve the specified minimum average grade. You may achieve this through your safety net grade. However, if progression is dependent on the application of your safety net, your department may want to talk to you to make sure that this is the best route for you.

I am studying part-time, will the Safety Net Policy apply to me?

Yes. The Safety Net Policy will apply to all modules where teaching and assessments have been directly affected by COVID-19.

I have taken a leave of absence for the Spring Semester 2019/20. Will the Safety Net Policy apply to me?

No. If you have taken a Leave of Absence and your studies have not been disrupted by COVID-19, the Safety Net Policy will not apply.

I’m a direct entrant to Level 2, so have no previous year’s marks and I haven’t got 40 credits of unaffected modules. How will my safety net grade be calculated?

Your safety net grade will be determined by taking the average of your best 100 credits over the full year.

I’m a degree apprenticeship student taking a foundation degree. My first year results count towards my degree, will I still get marks rather than a pass/fail?

Yes, you will receive marks as normal.

I’m on the AMRC’s one year top up programme for apprentices. I don't have 40 modules unaffected and no previous year marks. How will my safety net grade be calculated?

You will be treated as direct entrants to FHEQ Level 5 or above, and your safety net grade will be determined by taking the average of your best 100 credits over the full year.

Exams and Assessments

What happens if I fail a piece of assessed work, exam or module this semester?

Each module will be marked as usual and you should still aim to complete all your exams and assessments to proceed with your studies.

If you fail an exam or assessment this semester, you will have the opportunity to resit in the summer. In this instance, the overall result for the module will be capped at a passing grade as usual.

Information about resits

Your department may recommend progression and award based on fewer than 120 or 180 credits, as per General Regulations.

Once you are in a position to progress to your next level of study, or are eligible for an award, the Safety Net will be applied.

How will I receive my exam and assessment results?

You will receive your results in the usual way.

If you’re an undergraduate student, results for Spring Semester 2020 will now be released from 2pm on Tuesday 21 July 2020. To view your results, log in to MUSE and click myResults, under My Services.

If you’re a postgraduate taught student, you’ll receive a digital transcript of your official results via the ShARe system once the faculty have approved their release. This usually takes place in November. Your department may release provisional, unofficial results before this time. Please contact them directly for further details.

How to access your results

I feel that my studies have been severely impacted, what can the University do to help me?

Where you have evidence that you have been impacted by Covid 19 more significantly than other students, for example you have been ill with the virus, you should in the first instance consider submitting an extenuating circumstances form.

You may also, exceptionally, request to be allowed to resit all assessments on modules completed after 15 March, and within one calendar year of the original assessment, but should this request be granted by an Examination Board:

  • Your mark will be calculated under normal regulations without the benefit of the Safety Net Policy.
  • There is no guarantee that mode of assessment will be the same as that taken in the first attempt.
  • You must resit all affected assessments (i.e. those with submission dates, or that took place, on or after 15 March 2020), you will not be able to pick and choose.
Should I submit an extenuating circumstances form?

You may still submit extenuating circumstances for assessments and exams if you feel your performance has been unduly affected.

More information about extenuating circumstances

What marks will appear on my student transcripts?

For Level 1 students, transcripts will show pass/fail, rather than grades, for modules completed after 15 March 2020.

For Foundation Year and Level 2 and above students, transcripts will still show actual module marks achieved.

For PGT students, transcripts will still show actual module marks achieved.