Postgraduate students at King’s College London have recently had their ‘safety nets’ taken away from them. Students claim that they were not directly informed of this and that the university arbitrarily made a “random” and unfair change. This comes after the freezing of Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) hiring for September 2020 by the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, which has left postgraduates “facing uncertainty.”
The safety net policy at King’s provides for an adjustment of students’ grades based on their ‘safety net’ average, which consists of the grades of summative assignments submitted before the 15th of March. In early April, postgraduate students received an email from the university stating that they would be granted the same safety net as undergraduate students “where possible.”
According to Evie Aspinall, a postgraduate student studying Emerging Economies and International Development, “for most students, this was the only time they had ever been told about the safety net… so they unsurprisingly assumed this was the policy.” Moreover, a number of departments apparently confirmed the applicability of this policy in follow-up emails to their students.
In mid-April, however, the university overturned this decision and introduced a new policy. The policy, which students believe is “much less generous”, was updated on the website. It stated that in place of establishing a safety net average for postgraduates, King’s would grant a higher grade to those students within 2% of a grade boundary.
Interestingly, unlike when the possibility of a safety net was announced, students were not directly notified of this change by the university. Many continued to submit coursework keeping in mind the previously standing policy.
On the 18th of May (almost a month after King’s made its decision), the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy (SSPP) emailed its students, claiming that there had been a “misunderstanding” regarding the safety net and that it was in fact not applicable to postgraduate students. This inevitably came as a surprise to many within the SSPP faculty, more so because postgraduates from other faculties had not yet heard back from their departments and remained oblivious to the supposed change in policy.
The removal of the safety net has led to hundreds of postgraduate students being disheartened. In fact, a petition has been created to reinstate it, in which students state: “Misleading students and switching policy after work has been submitted and without notifying students is grossly unfair and will undoubtedly have a negative impact on many students’ results. We believe a 2% grade adjustment for a minority of students does not fairly reflect the level of disruption postgraduate students have faced and will unfairly affect our future prospects.
“The University has stated repeatedly that it wants to ensure fairness for all students and to support student wellbeing during this difficult time. Adopting a much less generous policy last minute and without properly notifying students does not reflect this ethos.”
The petition has been signed by 177 people thus far.