Apr 9, 2020

IFUT Blasts Government Over ‘Slight’ on Academics in Exam Preparation

The union says Higher Education Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor has overlooked the contribution of academic staff in summer assessments.

Molly FureySenior Editor
Sinéad Baker for The University Times

The Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT) has hit out at the government for overlooking the “huge contribution” of academics in developing alternative assessment models for this year’s summer exams.

In a press statement today, Joan Donegan, the general secretary of IFUT, condemned Minister for Higher Education Mary Mitchell O’Connor – who yesterday praised many higher education stakeholders for their efforts in developing online assessment tools – for “pointedly” refusing to thank lecturers.

“Staff in all academic departments have volunteered thousands of unpaid hours to speedily develop what is, in effect, an entirely new exam assessment system”, Donegan said.


On Wednesday, Mitchell O’Connor reassured students that the qualifications they achieve this year will be valued the same as in any other year and said that the “efforts being made across the sector” to safeguard the integrity of these qualifications “are nothing short of remarkable”.

Donegan said that Mitchell O’Connor “cannot but be aware” of the efforts of academic staff amid the ongoing shutdown of colleges and the alterations to exam arrangements.

“Our lecturing and academic staff have played their full part in this endeavour, despite many being on precarious and short-term contracts and facing likely unemployment”, she said, adding that Mitchell O’Connor’s “omission is all the more glaring in this context”.

“She should immediately correct this error and slight on thousands of lecturers and academic planners.”

Yesterday, Yesterday, The University Times revealed that College was to reject a no-detriment policy to be implemented in this year’s upcoming summer assessments.

Council opted instead to approve a number of alternative measures to ensure that students’ performance is not negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

These alternative measures include allowing students to resit modules even if they’ve passed them, or to retrospectively defer assessments if they feel their performance has been affected – which it says “should achieve mitigation against possible negative effects on students’ academic performance”.

Trinity will also allow students to pass the year, no matter how many modules they fail, as long as their overall mark is over 40 per cent.

Students can opt to defer examinations without proof, and boards of examiners will be urged to use their discretionary powers with “greater latitude” to adjust final-year grades upwards if they think a student’s grade is “significantly lower” as a result of the circumstances.

Transcripts will note the modules that were taken during the current crisis.

This, College hopes, “will flag the exceptional mitigating circumstances to any prospective employers” – as part of a set of measures it says “would collectively recognise and substantially mitigate the difficulties faced by students, ensure the minimal impact on the crisis on progression, and allow students who feel disadvantaged in the grades they have achieved a second shot at the assessment”.

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