Comment & Analysis
Apr 5, 2020

No Detriment Isn’t a Perfect Policy – But It’s the Best Proposal We’ve Seen

Thousands of students have this week demanded the implementation of a policy that will safeguard their grades.

Léigh as Gaeilge an t-Eagarfhocal (Read Editorial in Irish) »
By The Editorial Board

This week, a new student movement exploded. Around the country, thousands on social media called on their colleges to implement “no detriment” policies – which would essentially safeguard grades against falling – for this summer’s assessment periods.

It’s not hard to see why the proposal – already adopted in some UK universities – is so popular: it ensures students with a passing grade will finish with a final grade that’s either the same or higher than their average so far this year.

In Trinity, a petition in favour of the policy gathered thousands of signatures, and a campaign of email bombardment – targeting the provost, vice-provost and senior lecturer – began on Friday.


While an online petition does not a mass movement make, the fervour with which students are backing the movement has not gone unnoticed: both Provost Patrick Prendergast and Vice-Provost Jurgen Barkhoff have promised to look into the policy.

Trinity must do more than just discuss these policies, though. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, which means the rulebook has to be rewritten – there’s no use pretending that this year’s assessment period has not been irrevocably compromised by recent events.

The coronavirus has left every single student in a challenging situation – unable to access valuable library resources and without the guidance and structure that in-person lectures and seminars provide.

But that is not to say it has disadvantaged all students equally. Just as the pandemic has highlighted inequalities across the globe, the closure of College has made even more stark the disadvantages some students face, particularly when it comes to working conditions at home. Trinity’s tutor system is to be commended, but it should not be the only support for those struggling.

The current pandemic has altered our lives drastically, and things might get quite a lot worse in the next few weeks. The right thing for Trinity to do is to implement a compassionate policy that will relieve some stress and uncertainty.

A no-detriment policy may require some creative thinking in its design and implementation, but it’s the best solution we’ve seen for students who are looking down the barrel of a terrifyingly untested set of summer assessments.