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The University of Southampton

Teaching, studying and assessment

This page was last updated on: 22/01/2021

With the recent announcement of a national lockdown, we want to inform students about how this may have changed the way we’re delivering your teaching.  
 
The Government has asked universities to take action in light of the evolving COVID-19 situation, and in response to Government guidance we have changed our previous plans regarding student return to campuses for teaching in January.

Please know our staff are here to support you with your online studies and help you to succeed.

We know students may have questions about this and have included frequently asked questions below.

Teaching and study

Find out more about how we're minimising potential disruption in teaching and study.

With the announcement of another lockdown, how does this impact the delivery of my teaching?

News from the Government stating that we are now in another lockdown means we have had to move all teaching and assessment online until at least 12 April 2021 for all courses with the exceptions of those listed below. This means, unless you study one of the subjects below, there will be no on-campus teaching for your programme until we inform you otherwise.
 
We will keep the situation under constant review as guidance from the government and public health authorities evolve. We will be in touch with students with more details on the return to in-person on-campus teaching as soon as we can.  
 
The following courses will be able to continue with some critical face-to-face teaching:

  • Medicine students 
  • School of Health Sciences students  
  • PGCE students in the School of Education 

All undergraduate and postgraduate taught students were emailed further details from studentcomms@soton.ac.uk on 21.01.21

I’m a student coming to study for my postgraduate taught course in Southampton/Winchester in January/February. Does the announcement of the lockdown change my plans? What does this mean for my studies?

As a result of the new UK Government guidance, and the ongoing challenges that the pandemic has created, we have changed our previous plans regarding the delivery of in-person on-campus teaching for those students starting a programme in Semester 2. This means that for your programme, all teaching and assessment will be entirely online until at least 19 March 2021, which is the end of our second term.

Our plan at the moment is that you will be able to continue your studies in person at the University when our next term begins on 12 April 2021.

 In addition, we are aware that the availability of flights continues to be affected for students travelling from overseas. We will be constantly reviewing the situation and will provide timely updates as circumstances change; and will give you good notice so that you can make plans to travel to the UK during our Easter break.

All postgraduate taught students starting in January/February will have received further details via email from Professor Alex Neill, Vice-President (Education).

Can I get a refund on tuition fees?

Firstly, we understand that this is a difficult time for our students, and want to reassure you that we are taking all your questions and feedback on board.

We appreciate how disruptive the pandemic has been to your educational experience and we recognise that this can be a challenging time, both emotionally and financially.

Following the latest Government guidance, the University continues to remain open. Save for undergraduate students in Medicine, Health Sciences or PGCE students in the School of Education where on-campus teaching and placements will proceed according to the plans set out before the Christmas vacation, all teaching and assessment will be entirely online until at least 12 April 2021, unless we inform you otherwise. Your programme of study and the services which your tuition fees fund – services such as libraries, Enabling Services and the Employability and Careers Services have been adapted and will remain available to you.

We’re sorry to have to take this step, and will keep the situation under constant review as guidance from the government and public health authorities evolves. It is important to note we are only doing this because the Government has asked us to take this action.

While face-to-face education has temporarily stopped in line with health advice at this time, we are working to ensure students are able to continue with their studies. Students will still be able to access academic resources as well as academic and pastoral support services online and remotely.

We will therefore not be providing compensation or refunds as a matter of course.

On what instances am I allowed to return to campus? Will I be allowed to come to campus to study?

If you are an undergraduate student in Medicine or in the School of Health Sciences, or a PGCE student in the School of Education, your on-campus teaching and/or placements will proceed according to the plans you were expecting. Please contact your School if you need clarification on those plans.

Government guidance advises that wherever possible students should remain where they are and not return to campus and/or halls of residence until in-person on-campus teaching resumes. We do recognise that some students may not be able to safely or successfully study away from campus. Therefore, if a student feels that they need to return on this basis, then they should return to campus, but follow the guidance upon their return to isolate until two negative COVID-19 tests have been received.

We ask students to consider carefully as to if they should travel during this time and the government does not advise unnecessary travel. You may need to return earlier if you need support, or if you need to access IT equipment, library facilities or other facilities on campuses.

If you require access to study facilities, regardless of your course, you can use the Libraries, Building 100 and any other spaces that are open. Please ensure you stay safe while using these facilities by wearing a face covering, cleaning down surfaces and maintaining physical distance from others. You can find out what study spaces are available including booking spaces, where required, on this webpage.

If students need to access support, we encourage them to get in touch with our 24/7 Student Support Hub using the details below. If a student needs to access support face-to-face, the Student Services Centre is open for students to visit between 10:00 and 16:00, Monday to Friday. Please note, we have a number of safety measures in place for you to be aware of when visiting the Student Services Centre. Find out more here.

Will I be able to study online for the rest of the year or will I be expected to return to campus at some point?

Our goal is to get students back to in-person, on-campus teaching as soon as we are permitted to. We must adhere to government guidance which is why we’ve temporarily moved the majority of subjects’ teaching to online only. We are continuously reviewing the situation and will inform students when they can return to campus. Our saliva based testing programme will enable you to be confident that you know your infection status and keep you and the wider community safe. 

I am a student going on / already on placement. Can I still take part in my placement?

The government has stated the following information for students on placements:  
 
“Those of you on placements, where the placement provider has COVID-secure measures in place, is permitted to open based on the relevant local restrictions, and is content for placements to continue.” 

How is the University supporting disabled students who are impacted by another lockdown?

Enabling Services continues to support students in relation to their disability, including wellbeing and mental health, long term health conditions and Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs), such as dyslexia.  Students with a diagnosis are supported through recommended reasonable adjustments, including AERs, as well as ongoing support as appropriate; a range of specialist interventions are also offered, including wellbeing support, counselling and specialist study skills.  All student appointments continue to be offered online (and in person for reasons related to disability or circumstance, where this can be managed safely).

Whilst every effort is made to monitor and support students on an ongoing basis, students who consider themselves to be ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ are encouraged to contact Enabling Services to review their circumstances and discuss their support needs. Please be aware that you will be asked for a copy of the letter you have received from the government that confirms your clinically vulnerable status, when the team responds to your enquiry

Any students who are adversely impacted by current lockdown arrangements in relation to their studies or wellbeing are encouraged to contact Enabling Services for support, advice and guidance.

Enabling Services continues to collaborate with teams across the University on an ongoing basis to ensure appropriate support is in place for:

  • Students who might be considered at risk to themselves or others
  • Disabled students with complex needs and/or may have previously shielded
  • Students about whom concerns have been raised in relation to their health or well-being.

If you would like to contact Enabling Services, please email enable@soton.ac.uk. To speak to a member of the team, call 023 8059 9599 and press option 3.

What will happen about graduation? (SUSU)

We are proactively working towards delivering graduation ceremonies when it is safe to do so, but this is dependent on the situation with COVID-19. Unfortunately, we can't give you any further information at this time but want to reassure you we'll be inviting eligible students to their ceremonies as soon as it is safe to do so.

When does the University advise me to return to campus in 2021?

If you left Southampton or Winchester for the winter break and have not yet returned, Government advice is that you do not return until in-person on-campus teaching resumes.

If you are an undergraduate student in Medicine or in the School of Health Sciences, or a PGCE student in the School of Education, your on-campus teaching and/or placements will proceed according to the plans you were expecting. Please contact your School if you need clarification on those plans.

For all other undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes, we expect that all teaching and assessment will be entirely online for the duration of lockdown.  That is, there will be no on-campus teaching for your programme until we inform you otherwise. 

When will I know more about when in-person on-campus teaching will resume?

Having considered further government and public health announcements, and because we want to provide as much clarity and stability to students as possible, University Executive Board has made the decision that all classroom-based teaching activity will continue to be fully online at least until 12 April, following the Easter Vacation.

We are continuously reviewing the situation and will update students with further details as soon as we know more.

Assessments, coursework, special considerations and extensions

Find out how assessment might be affected, and the measures we've put in place to help reduce disruption.

The government have said there will be no exams so how are exams working in January?

Recent government announcements about exams have been focussed on A-Levels and other qualifications delivered prior to university such as BTECs. University assessments will run although these may be subject to some change. For the majority of our students, all assessments will be held online. Students assessment timetables were published on their SUSSED accounts on 22 December. 

Will the University be operating a ‘No Detriment’ policy for this academic year?

During the second semester of last academic year, the University had to respond very rapidly to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of the first ‘lockdown’ period. As part of that response, we put in place significant changes to assessment and methods of calculating assessment outcomes for students.

As we had to deviate so rapidly and extensively from what we had planned and from what students had been expecting, we (like many other universities) introduced a number of emergency measures. These included a ‘no detriment’ commitment designed to reassure students that (so long as they engaged with required work) they would not end the 2019-20 academic year in a worse position than that achieved prior to the pandemic.

We have learned a lot since last March, and we have designed our teaching and our assessment for this academic year with awareness of the impact of the pandemic uppermost in our minds.  Circumstances continue to be challenging for both students and staff, of course, but for this year we have been able to plan with an understanding of those challenges, which means that we hope to avoid taking any disruptive emergency-measures.

 As a result, we, like other Russell Group universities, do not plan to operate a ‘No Detriment’ policy for this academic year.  However, all students graduating this year – or next year for Integrated Masters students – will have the ‘No Detriment’ position of the 2019-20 academic year applied to that year of study when it comes to calculating their degree outcome. 

What measures will the University have in place to reduce the impact of any disruption on students’ preparation for and performance in assessments?

We have put in place a number of measures designed to help you manage your particular circumstances and reduce the impact of any disruption (COVID-19-related or otherwise) on your preparation for and performance in assessments.

All UG and PGT students received an email from Professor Alex Neill with further details about these measures on 21.01.21. You can find further details about these measures, including how to apply for special considerations and extensions, in the FAQs below.

We have designed these measures to be flexible and easily accessible so that, if things are not going well, you can tell us as simply and straightforwardly as possible. This will help us, both to provide support, and to ensure that we understand the impact of any disruption on your preparation for and performance in assessments.

As usual, advice and support is available from your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT), and from Senior Tutors and the SUSU Advice Centre. Not sure who your PAT is? Check Banner Self-Service to find out.

Will I be asked to attend campus for in-person teaching or in-person exams?

We expect all teaching and assessment for the majority of undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes (apart from those listed above), will be entirely online until at least 12 April 2021. That is, there will be no on-campus teaching for your programme until we inform you otherwise. We are sorry to have to take this step and will keep the situation under constant review as guidance from the UK Government and public health authorities evolves.

How do I read my assessment timetable?

This shows the window of time during which an assessment will be available to you. Some assessments may show in 1 row with a start and end date and time, others may be split over 2 rows with a start day and time and then a submission date and time on the next row.

How do I access my assessment?

Full details on how to access your assessment, how to upload your answers and other useful information will be sent to you by your student office in the New Year.

Please don't worry if you're not sure about anything, this timetable is designed as a tool to help you plan your time and we will give you further details when we return to campus. Your student office and the Exams team will be here to help you from 4 January onwards.

I need to ask for an extension for a coursework deadline. How do I do that?

You need to complete an extension request form and send it to your School’s Student Office. You should do this before the original deadline. We are not asking for any supporting evidence from you, just a note of the affected assessments.

Will my extension be approved?

If you tell us that your request is as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, either directly (eg due to self-isolation, you receiving a positive test etc) or indirectly (less than ideal working conditions, reduced access to resources etc), and you are asking for an extension of up to 14 days, then approval is automatic; you don’t need to wait for confirmation from us.

If you need more than 14 days or your extension is not due to an effect of the pandemic, we still don’t need you to provide supporting evidence, but you do need to have your request approved, so for longer extensions or non-COVID-19 requests, please ask as early as possible before the original deadline. 

In these cases, we also ask for a brief statement where you will need to explain why you are asking for the extension. This is so we can monitor student welfare and consider whether further mitigation is needed for situations we are hearing are affecting a lot of students.

Can I have an extension for an assessment in the final assessment period?

The assessments in the final assessment period for each semester have mostly been designed as a replacement for a traditional exam. As for an exam, there are no deadline extensions for this kind of assessment.

There are a small number of other assessments that will be submitted during that period which are considered as coursework and some of those may be eligible for deadline extensions. Your module tutors will be able to give you more information with regards to any particular assessment.

Who can ask for special consideration?

You can ask for special consideration if you are ill, but also if a close family member is ill and that affects your studies. You can also ask for special consideration for the effect of bereavement – death of a close relative/friend/significant other. However, special consideration doesn’t only cover illness and bereavement.

This year, the special consideration category: significant adverse personal/family circumstances, would cover the impact of other things we know are a problem for many of you at the moment such as: unexpected or additional caring duties for family members; less than ideal physical working environments; the need to share IT with others in your household; poor WIFI connectivity; prolonged low mood, depression or anxiety as result of COVID-19.

This is not an exhaustive list so if you are not sure whether your circumstances would be eligible for special consideration, you are invited to speak to your Personal Academic Tutor (PAT), your School’s Senior Tutor or your Programme Lead. You can also obtain impartial and free advice from the Students’ Union Advice Centre.

What if I mostly have coursework assessments?

As with other types of assessments, we know your work may be disrupted by your working environment, by stress and anxiety or by other difficult personal circumstances. You can use the special consideration process to tell us about this as well. It’s not just for final assessments

When do I need to ask for special consideration?

We have extended as far as we can the timeframe for submission of special consideration requests for Semester 1 assessments, so the deadline for everyone is now seven working days after the end of the whole Semester 1 assessment period. The deadline is now 9th February 2021.

We will keep the timescales for requests related to assessments in Semester 2 and beyond under review as well. 

Where is the special consideration request form?

If your request relates to the effect of the pandemic, you should use the form here.

Requests not related to the pandemic should be made on this form.

Do I need to provide independent evidence of what happened?

No - we know that accessing GPs, counsellors and other professional support services can be difficult at the moment, and we also understand that some kinds of problems you face due to the pandemic may affect your ability to study but can’t easily be supported by evidence, therefore we have removed the requirement to provide evidence to support your request for special consideration.

This applies to requests whether they are related to the pandemic or not. You now simply have to write a short description of how your study and/or assessment has been adversely affected.

What can the Special Consideration Board do to help me?

Special Consideration Boards look at both your circumstances and your marks. If they can identify a negative effect on your academic performance in the affected assessments, they can make recommendations to the Board of Examiners that you should be offered mitigation. The mitigations they can recommend include:

  • Waiving a late penalty 
  • Extending a deadline for a final assessment 
  • Permitting an uncapped referral/resit 
  • Permitting an additional referral/resit 
  • Disregarding a mark(s) when making a progression recommendation 
  • Disregarding a mark(s) when making a classification recommendation 
  • Varying the weighting of parts for classification 
  • Allowing you to defer your assessment to a later date

The Special Consideration Board recommendations aim to ensure you are ready for the next level of study and that your final award meets y expectations in terms of academic standards.   Sometimes this means they need to ask you to take an assessment again later in the year to make sure you have met all the learning outcomes.


Read the general guidance on special consideration for more information.

How will the Board of Examiners consider module marks this year?

We know that some modules, and all the students registered on those modules, are more affected when access to the campus changes. To ensure we maintain the standard of your degree and its value to you, the Boards of Examiners will compare cohort performance in the current year with the typical performance of previous years.

They will be especially careful when undertaking this process to ensure that the changes to assessment style and process are properly accounted for. Our scaling policy allows the Boards of Examiners to adjust module marks profiles for a whole student cohort where we can see they fall substantially out of line with expectations.

Normally Schools are required to notify students, via approved wording in their programme documentation, if they plan to implement the scaling policy. This year, to ensure your academic performance is appropriately recognised, we are letting you know now that we are changing our policy so that the marks for any module may be scaled if the Board of Examiners decides that is in the best interests of the students.

If marks for one of your modules have been scaled, you will always be notified about the scaling and the reasons for it after the Board of Examiners has met. 

I’m a Medicine student, what is happening with my exams?

If you are studying Medicine, you may be taking a formal exam on campus. In this case you will see information under the 'location' column. We have shared more details about the rooms, including giving you a seat number ahead of your exams. 

How will my degree class be calculated this year?

Every student graduating in 2020/21 will have their degree classification individually considered by the Board of Examiners. This will involve looking at the final average and your whole marks profile to ensure that any clear discrepancies in module-by-module performance, that might be linked to the stress and disruption of the pandemic, are considered when classifying your degree.

The Boards of Examiners will be especially careful in their consideration of marks from 2019/20 where Part averages were not calculated by the usual process due to cancelled or revised assessments in Semester 2.

How can you be sure you will maintain academic standards this year?

All decisions for finalists and for continuing students made by the Board of Examiners will be overseen by our External Examiners to ensure that the classification you receive continues to meet national expectations and retains its value.

External Examiners are experienced members of academic staff from other universities with the same expectations for quality and standards and are part of the national process for moderating award classifications and progression decisions.

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