Further information for students on modified assessment policies, including the safety nets for graduating undergraduates and Integrated Master's students.

Dear students,

Policies for modified assessment 

My message of last week set out the principles and policies for modified assessments. As I said, a great deal of work was done to consult on these arrangements, and to set out an approach that maintains academic rigour, is fair and takes account of the particular needs and circumstances of all students. It was important to me to bring some clarity to you as soon as possible: I know that for some, the prospect of changes to your assessment has been a source of concern.

In setting out the University’s approach last week, I also said that we may have to adapt it. I have had a large number of emails from students who have proposed changes to the policies I set out last week. I have read these emails, and have carefully considered the points raised, in discussion with my colleagues in Schools, Faculties and Departments and with student representatives. As a consequence of these discussions, I want to update you on some clarifications to the policy.

Safety net for graduating undergraduates who were not classed last year

Where a final-year undergraduate student was not classed last year it will not be possible to apply the safety net automatically with reference to the class they obtained in the year before that. Where, however, the final-year classification of such a student is lower than that which they obtained two years ago it will now be possible for them to apply through their College to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC) for a review of their final year classification. This review will have regard to: the class and marks they obtained two years ago; any marks obtained last year; the marks obtained this year; and any other evidence of the quality of their work during the last academic year and this academic year, including supervision reports and any marks on formative assessment. The EAMC will consider this evidence and may conclude that it suggests that that the student is capable of achieving a higher class than that awarded. In such circumstances the EAMC will recommend to the Board of Examiners that the higher class should be awarded.

Added 09/04/20: the safety net does apply to students who last received a class in their second year, such as those who participated in the Year Abroad last year and also applies to a student who intermitted after IB (or indeed after Part II who is now reading for Part III.)

Safety net for Integrated Master’s students

A number of Integrated Master’s students (students taking a four-year course at Cambridge where the fourth year gives them a Master’s award) expressed concern at the proposal that the safety net would not apply to their fourth year. This principle had been adopted because it was clear that a safety net could not be applied consistently across all Integrated Master’s courses. As a result of detailed discussion with relevant Faculties and Departments, we have agreed to categorise Integrated Master’s courses in three ways as follows.


The safety net will apply to Category A courses, where the fourth year of the course is fully integrated into the undergraduate portion of the course and the modified assessment which has been arranged will provide a student with the opportunity to be classed. These courses are: Chemical Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, Natural Science Tripos (except Astrophysics and History and Philosophy of Science).


The safety net will not apply to the Category B course, Computer Science, because Part III is not fully integrated with Part II and is effectively a stand-alone Master's course.


A number of students raised concerns that marks appearing on their transcript would be subject to different interpretation by prospective employers or academic institutions. We are working on the explanatory text that will be included on the transcript to explain why in some cases a class has not been awarded, how the safety net operates and the extraordinary circumstances in which the assessment was taken.

Preparing for assessment

As regards other issues raised following the publication of the principles and policy for assessment last week, my colleagues and I have judged that the University’s approach should stand. A final decision has now been reached, and your focus should now be on preparing for your assessment, to the extent that you are able to do so bearing in mind the extraordinary situation we face which may have affected your own health or those close to you. If a student feels that they have been prevented from demonstrating what they have learned in either the first or second assessment period (as a result of serious illness or other grave cause), despite the safety-net policy, then they will be able to submit an application to the ​Examination Access and Mitigation Committee, in the usual way.

The timetable for assessments that usually occur at the start of the Easter term, at the end of April and into May is being drafted and should be published by Friday 17 April 2020.

The timetable for assessments that usually occur in late May and June will be built in consultation with Faculties and Departments over the coming weeks and will be published in early May. The published timetable will be available to view on the examinations timetable pages as well as in your CamSIS self-service. The published timetable will show those summative and formative assessments that are to be taken in the format of an online exam for a period of 24 hours or less. Any other formative assessment, as well as deadlines for coursework and other submitted work, will be published locally within Departments only.

On the subject of timetables, I have had a number of emails from students on the Veterinary Medicine and Medicine courses regarding the timing of their assessments. The School of Biological Sciences will communicate with their students later this week on this matter.


Preparing for University examinations and assessments can be a cause for anxiety at the best of times. We know these are anything but, and the collegiate University is working hard to support you to the best of our ability. You can find information about supporting your wellbeing on the student wellbeing advice page about the coronavirus outbreak. If you have specific concerns relating to your studies, please contact your Director of Studies, Tutor, Senior Tutor or course director.

As a final note, the Vice-Chancellor's daily message has given some idea of the work of colleagues, researchers and students, who are using their knowledge and expertise to assist the local, national, and international effort. I am reminded that among the student body are our final-year medical students, who are about to accept early graduation and go into the NHS at a time of crisis. Their efforts and skills are valued, not only by the University, but by the country as a whole.

I send you all my very best wishes,



Professor Graham Virgo

Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)