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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and information

This page is being regularly updated to reflect the latest advice.

 

QAA is in close contact with the Access Validating Agencies (AVAs) to ensure we are doing everything possible to support Access to HE students during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. You can find contact details for the AVAs on our website.

 

If you have any further questions or concerns relating to COVID-19, you can email the QAA Access to HE Team at AHE@qaa.ac.uk.

 

WHAT IS CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)?


COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called Coronavirus. For further information on COVID-19, please see the NHS website.


WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)?


Symptoms of Coronavirus include:

  1. feeling tired
  2. difficulty breathing
  3. high temperature
  4. a continuous cough.

For more information about symptoms and about what you should do if you experience any of these, please visit the NHS website.


WHO WILL RECEIVE CALCULATED GRADES?


All students due to complete their QAA-recognised Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020 will receive calculated grades.
It does not include students that have:

  • withdrawn
  • an expected completion date after 31 July 2020.

WHICH ACCESS TO HE DIPLOMAS ARE INCLUDED?


It will include all QAA-recognised Access to HE Diplomas that have students who are due to complete by 31 July 2020. For a list of all Diplomas please go to the course search on our website.


I’M A DISTANCE LEARNING STUDENT, WILL I GET A CALCULATED GRADE?


Only if you were expected to complete by 31 July 2020. All students expected to complete their Diploma by 31 July 2020, however they were being taught before the college closures (eg in college, distance learning, fast track etc) will receive a calculated grade for all assessments due to be handed in after 20 March 2020.


If you were expected to complete after 31 July 2020 you will be supported to complete your studies through changes to the delivery of teaching and assessment of your course.


We know that, as Access to HE students, many of you are engaged in a tricky balance between work, family responsibilities and studies. However, it is important that all students are as well prepared as they can be for their transition into higher education, so making use of the resources prepared by Access to HE tutors and participating in continuing virtual teaching and tutorials, where possible, is key to ensure you have covered all the subject knowledge required for your Diploma.


Continuing with learning will help all Access to HE students feel more confident that they are ready to take the next step in their education or career pathway. We expect Access to HE course tutors to continue to deliver teaching and support. Therefore, we encourage you to continue your learning wherever you can.


DO I NEED TO APPLY FOR CALCULATED GRADES?


No. If you are due to complete by 31 July 2020 you will automatically receive calculated grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020. 


WHAT IF I AM DUE TO COMPLETE AFTER 31 JULY 2020?


Students who plan to complete their Access to HE Diplomas after 31 July 2020 will be supported to complete their studies through changes to the delivery of teaching and assessment of the course.


Access to HE course tutors are working hard to adapt to new ways of delivery and assessment and are developing materials to help students get the most out of their learning in order to prepare them for higher study.


We know that the current environment is a really challenging one, and we want all students to be supported as effectively as possible during this time. Access to HE providers and AVAs already have in place procedures to allow such students to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect their academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures will certainly be available to all students. It is also possible that some assessments may be rescheduled.


The current QAA grading scheme will apply to students who are due to complete after 31 July 2020. Where a student feels their case has not been addressed by this guidance they should speak to their course tutor.
Further guidance will follow in due course.


WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO MY TEACHING AND ASSESSMENTS NOW THE COLLEGE/PROVIDER IS CLOSED?


Your college/provider has been contingency planning for any necessary changes to the delivery and assessment arrangements for your programme of study. They will be best placed to answer specific questions relating to teaching and assessments.


WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M NOT ABLE TO STUDY BECAUSE OF ILLNESS OR BECAUSE OF OTHER COMMITMENTS, INCLUDING ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES AS A KEY WORKER OR CARER?


If you plan to complete your studies after 31 July 2020, you will be able to use procedures that are already in place to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect your academic performance. You should be able to find out about these from your course tutor or student handbook.


If you are due to complete your Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020 you will receive calculated grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020. We expect Access to HE course tutors to continue to deliver teaching and support during this period. Therefore, we encourage you to continue your learning wherever you can. If you need help or further support, you should contact your course provide.


A student completing their Diploma by 31 July 2020 will now receive estimated assessment grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020. The assessment may include exams, or other forms of assessments, for example essays, practical work and presentations.


HOW WILL ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES WORK FOR GRADED UNITS?


We are asking course tutors to use their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the grades assigned to each assessment they believe a student would have been likely to have achieved.


Course tutors should draw on existing records and available evidence as far as possible in the context of current public health advice.


The course tutor will then review all the assessment grades that have been given for a unit and will determine the final grade for the unit using a standard method. The final grade for the unit is arrived at by establishing the midpoint of grades in the unit grade profile.


CAN I FAIL THE COURSE VIA ESTIMATED GRADES?


Estimated assessment grades will be based on a range of evidence, including:

  • prior attainment on course;
  • formative assessments (assessment for learning); and
  • any other records of student performance over the course of study.

Estimated assessment grades may include:

  • Achieved (ungraded units)
  • Pass (graded units)
  • Merit (graded units)
  • Distinction (graded units)
  • Not achieved (graded and ungraded units)

HOW WILL I ACHIEVE UNGRADED UNITS?


As stated above, we are asking course tutors to use their professional experience to make fair and objective judgements of the achievement on each assessment they believe a student would have been likely to have achieved.
Course tutors should draw on existing records and available evidence as far as possible in the context of current public health advice.


WHAT ABOUT STUDENTS WHO HAVE AN AGREED REASONABLE ADJUSTMENT OR ACCESS ARRANGEMENT?


Providers will judge the grades that these students would most likely have achieved if they had been able to complete their assessments with the intended reasonable adjustment or access arrangement in place.


WILL I SEE THE ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES THAT MY PROVIDER SUBMITS?


No. Providers will not share estimated assessment grades with students until final results have been confirmed. This is to protect the integrity of the tutors' judgements, and to avoid tutors feeling under pressure to submit grades that are not supported by the evidence.


DO I HAVE TO CONTINUE TO COMPLETE ASSESSMENTS TO INFORM THE ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES SUBMITTED BY PROVIDERS?


No. There is no requirement for providers to set assessments for the purposes of determining your estimated assessment grade. In addition, providers do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished assessment work and work expected to be resubmitted after 20 March 2020, for the purposes of estimating grades. If you have any questions about late submissions you should speak to your course tutor.


No student should be disadvantaged if they were unable to complete any work set after many providers closed on 20 March 2020.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where that evidence suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


We encourage students to continue learning wherever they can and this may include the completion of formative assessments (a piece of work that supports your learning). You should talk to your course provider if you experience difficulties continuing with your learning.


Please note that all assessments completed after 20 March 2020 will not include summative assessments.


I HANDED A PIECE OF WORK BEFORE 20 MARCH THAT NEEDS TO BE RESUBMITTED, WHAT HAPPENS NOW?


Providers do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished assessment work and work expected to be resubmitted after 20 March 2020, for the purposes of estimating grades.


The tutor will use the evidence available to them to estimate your assessment grades for all planned assessments to be submitted after 20 March 2020. This includes work to be resubmitted after 20 March 2020.


I AM DUE TO COMPLETE BY 31 JULY 2020 BUT I HAVE COMPLETED LESS THAN 50% OF PLANNED ASSESSMENTS BY 20 MARCH 2020, WILL I RECEIVE CALCULATED GRADES?


It is our expectation that students will have completed a minimum of 50% of planned assessed work by 20 March 2020. If you have any questions about the amount of planned assessed work you have completed and the possible options for you moving forward, you should contact your provider.


CAN I CONTINUE TO COMPLETE MY ASSESSMENTS?


We know that many Access to HE students are engaged in a tricky balance between work, family responsibilities and studies. However, it is important that all students are as well prepared as they can be for their transition into higher education, so making use of the resources prepared by Access to HE tutors and participating in continuing virtual teaching and tutorials, where possible,
is key to ensure you have covered all the subject knowledge required of your Diploma.


Continuing with learning will help all Access to HE students feel more confident that they are ready to take the next step in their education or career pathway. We expect Access to HE course tutors to continue to deliver teaching and support. Therefore, we encourage you to continue your learning wherever you can. You may wish to continue to complete formative assessments, where possible. Please contact your course provider. Please note that all assessments completed after 20 March 2020 will be considered to be formative assessments. Your tutor may provide you with development feedback on these formative assessments.


Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that course tutors use to conduct
in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during
a lesson, unit, or Diploma. In other words:

  • formative assessments are for learning
  • summative assessments are of learning.

In terms of estimating assessment grades, there is no requirement for course tutors to set assessments for the purposes of determining an estimated assessment grade.


If you need help or further support, you should contact your course provider.


WHEN AND HOW WILL ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES BE SUBMITTED TO AVAS?


AVAs will provide detailed instructions to course providers on how to submit assessment grades and unit grades. In terms of what will be submitted, it will include:

  • record of prior attainment on course (up to and including 20 March 2020)
  • record of estimated grades (21 March 2020 to 31 July 2020).

WILL MY COURSE TUTORS NEED TO SUBMIT THE EVIDENCE THEY HAVE USED FOR ESTIMATING MY GRADES?


Course tutors will retain all the evidence for the purposes of moderation and standardisation exercises. AVAs will contact providers with sample lists to be externally moderated. The senior course manager will be asked to confirm that the estimated assessment grades are a true representation of student performance.


WILL MY ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES BE ACCURATE?


In an extraordinary situation such as this, course tutors are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students had the courses been completed as normal. In the interests of fairness to students, judgements made by course tutors should be consistent. AVAs will therefore quality assure and standardise the judgements once estimated assessment grades have been submitted to ensure grades are fair.


HOW WILL MY ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES BE QUALITY ASSURED AND STANDARDISED?


To make sure that grades are fair, AVAs and providers will ensure estimated assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation, and standardisation.


As part of the moderation process, if grading judgements in some providers appear to be more severe or generous compared to national grade outcomes in recent years, AVAs will adjust the assessment grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly.


In terms of national standardisation, QAA will consult on the principles of this model shortly,
but we expect it will look at evidence such as the:

  • prior attainment on course of students at each provider, AVA and by subject
  • expected national grade outcomes for this year's students
  • national grade outcomes of the provider, AVA and subject in recent years.

WHEN WILL I GET MY RESULTS?


Results will be released by AVAs to your providers on Monday 13 July 2020.


Course providers will then release the results to you. Please contact your provider for details on how you will receive your results.

 

WILL MY ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADES CARRY THE SAME WEIGHT AS GRADES ISSUED IN PREVIOUS OR FUTURE YEARS?


The estimated assessment grades awarded to students will have equal status to the grades awarded prior to 20 March 2020 and also in other years and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers.


The grades awarded for each unit will be shown on the achievement transcript that is issued with Access to HE Diplomas. The transcript also shows how many credits were awarded for each successfully completed graded or ungraded unit. Grades will be reported in the same way as in previous years.


CAN I APPEAL MY GRADES?


We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they haven't been able to complete their assessments.


We are all focused on making sure students are not disadvantaged by these unprecedented circumstances including to allow for an appeal where appropriate. Under the circumstances, the normal arrangements for appeals will not apply. We are considering what arrangements might be put in place to allow an effective appeal and will consult shortly with AVAs and providers on proposals.


If a student does not feel their calculated grades reflect their expected performance, they will have the opportunity to appeal or they may choose to sit their assessments at the earliest reasonable opportunity (when all providers are operating normally). Students should be made aware that taking their assessments later may impact their progression to university in September. In addition, if a student does not believe the correct process of assessment for the award of the Access to HE Diploma has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal.


IF I FELT THAT MY CALCULATED GRADE(S) DID NOT REFLECT MY PERFORMANCE AND I CHOSE TO SIT ASSESSMENT(S) AT THE EARLIEST REASONABLE OPPORTUNITY WILL I STILL BE ABLE TO GO TO UNIVERSITY THIS YEAR?


When all providers are operating normally, students may still choose to take an assessment or assessments even where their university or college place has been confirmed. However, it will take time for the results of these assessments to be issued, so you will need to discuss with your higher and further education institution whether to start your course as planned or to delay your entry.


QAA has spoken to UCAS and was reassured to hear that institutions intend to be flexible wherever possible and will do all they can to support students to progress.


IF I TAKE AN ASSESSMENT AT THE EARLIEST REASONABLE OPPORTUNITY, WHICH WILL STAND – THE ACTUAL OR ESTIMATED ASSESSMENT GRADE?


Where students choose to take an assessment or assessments when all providers are operating normally, the actual assessment grade will stand. Please note that your actual assessment grade may be lower than the estimated assessment grade.


I AM STUDYING GCSE’s OR FUNCTIONAL SKILLS ALONGSIDE MY ACCESS TO HE DIPLOMA, WHAT HAPPENS ABOUT THESE QUALIFICATIONS?


GCSEs and functional skills are regulated by Ofqual and you would need to look at the information produced by Ofqual about them.


WILL I BE ABLE TO PROGRESS TO THE NEXT STAGE OF EDUCATION OR EMPLOYMENT WITH THESE GRADES?


This approach will enable students to move onto the next stage of their education or employment in the autumn as planned, subject to meeting the requirements set by the receiving institution or employer.


I’M DUE TO ATTEND AN OPEN DAY/INTERVIEW FOR A UNIVERSITY PLACE – IS THIS STILL GOING AHEAD?


If you have any concerns around an interview, audition or university open day or taster course, you should contact the university or college directly for advice.


WHAT ABOUT MEETING THE CONDITIONS OF MY UNIVERSITY OFFER?


The UCAS website is updated regularly with information for applicants.   


I AM ON A PRE-ACCESS COURSE, WHAT HAPPENS ABOUT THESE QUALIFICATIONS?


You would need to speak to the organisation that will issue your Pre-Access qualification to find out what will happen to your results. Your course provider will be able to let you know the name of the awarding body.


I WANT TO APPLY TO TAKE AN ACCESS TO HE COURSE. HOW DO I DO THIS IF THE COLLEGE IS CLOSED?


You should visit the course provider website to find out more about their Diplomas and how you can apply. You might find it useful to look at our Career Coach tool to help you find out more about the career path you would like to follow and to find relevant courses.


I AM A PROVIDER AND HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT SUPPORTING MY STUDENTS. WHO SHOULD I CONTACT?


Liaise with your AVA about the situation at your college so that contingencies can be put in place as necessary. Contact details for the AVAs are available on our website.


HOW CAN I KEEP UP-TO-DATE?


 For the latest advice regarding COVID-19, please see:

For travel advice please check the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

What is coronavirus (covid-19)?


COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called Coronavirus. For further information on COVID-19, please see the NHS website.


What are the symptoms of coronavirus (covid-19)?


Symptoms of Coronavirus include:

  • feeling tired
  • difficulty breathing
  • high temperature
  • a continuous cough.

For more information about symptoms and about what you should do if you experience any of these, please visit the NHS website.


Who will receive calculated grades?


All students due to complete their QAA-recognised Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020 will receive calculated grades.


It does not include students that have:

  • withdrawn
  • an expected completion date after 31 July 2020.

Will I receive calculated grades?


Current information advises that students due to complete their QAA-recognised Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020, will receive calculated grades. Students due to complete after 31 July will be supported to complete their studies through changes to the delivery of teaching and assessment of their course. If you have any concerns regarding your specific circumstances, please speak to your provider.


We want to ensure that you receive fair results and that there is parity with other students on qualifications with a completion date after 31 July 2020 with a similar intent, which is progression to higher study.


We expect your provider to support you as effectively as possible during this time. Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies already have procedures in place to allow you to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect your academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures are available to all students.


If you feel your grades during this period do not reflect your previous performance, please speak to your course tutor.


Do I have to continue to complete assessments?


Yes. We know that many Access to HE students are engaged in a tricky balance between work, family responsibilities and studies. However, it is important that you are as well prepared as you can be for your transition into higher education, so continuing with learning and assessments, where possible, is important to ensure you have covered all the subject knowledge and skills in order to meet the requirements of your Diploma. Continuing with learning and assessments will also help you feel more confident that you are ready to take the next step in your education or career pathway.


Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies already have procedures in place to allow you to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect your academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures are available to all students.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where the outcomes from the assessments suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


To make sure that grades are fair and duly affected by the current situation, AVAs and providers will ensure that assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation. As part of the moderation process, AVAs may adjust the assessment grades of some assessments upwards or downwards accordingly.


The current situation means I am unable to study because I am a key worker/carer or now have additional commitments, what should I do?


Access to HE Diplomas have been designed to be responsive to changes in circumstances, for example, during a period of illness. If you are unable to study, please talk to your course provider about the best way to continue with your Diploma.


Options include:

  1. application for extenuating circumstances
  2. applying for an extension to assessment submission dates
  3. a short pause of less than four weeks - for example, if you are in self isolation - this will not necessarily affect the planned end-date of your course
  4. a formal break or suspension in learning.

If your course is not publicly funded, your course provider will be able to discuss other options that may be available to you.


You should contact your course provider to agree the appropriate steps taken that will be based on both you and your course provider's circumstances.


I am unable to access the online lessons and materials, what should I do?


If you are unable to access online lessons and materials, you should contact your course provider so that you can discuss the options available to you.


I am finding it difficult to study with only online lessons and materials and am worried it will affect my grades and completing the diploma, what should I do?


You should contact your course provider if you are concerned about your learning because of the adaptations to the way the course is delivered. You may be able to get access to additional support or tools to help you study online.


Course providers may also adapt or reschedule the delivery of their courses to allow you to revisit topics delivered once course providers return to normal operation.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where the outcomes from the assessments suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


To make sure that grades are fair and not unduly affected by the current situation, AVAs and providers will ensure that assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation.


What do I do if I feel the work, I’ve produced does not reflect my previous performance?


We know that the current environment is a really challenging one, and we want you to be supported as effectively as possible during this time. Access to HE course tutors are working hard to adapt to new ways of delivery and assessment and are developing materials to help you get the most out of your learning and assessment in order to prepare you for higher study.


Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies already have procedures in place to allow you to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect your academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures are available to you. It is also possible that some assessments may be rescheduled. If you feel your grades during this period do not reflect your previous performance, please speak to your course tutor.   


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where the outcomes from the assessments suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


To make sure that grades are fair and not unduly affected by the current situation, AVAs and providers will ensure that assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation.


Can I apply for extenuating circumstances?


Yes. We know that the current environment is a really challenging one, and we want you to be supported as effectively as possible during this time. Access to HE providers and AVAs already have in place procedures to allow you to identify extenuating circumstances that may affect your academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult.


To discuss your specific circumstances, please speak directly to your course tutor.


How do I apply for extenuating circumstances?


Please contact your course tutor who will explain how to apply.


Can I apply for an extension to an assessment submission deadline?


Yes. Access to HE providers and AVAs already have procedures in place to allow you to apply for an extension, should the current situation make studying difficult.


To discuss your specific circumstances please speak directly to your course tutor.


How do I apply for an extension to an assessment submission deadline?


Please contact your course tutor who will explain how to apply.


Can I apply for a break in learning?


Yes. Access to HE providers and AVAs already have procedures in place to allow you to take a break in learning, should the current situation make studying difficult. You and your course provider can agree to suspend learning while the learner takes a break. This allows the learner to continue later with the same eligibility that applied when they first started their learning.


Publicly funded courses in England and Wales already have provision for 'breaks/suspension in learning' or for a range of circumstances.


Guidance from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) states:


'The course provider and the learner can agree to suspend learning while the learner takes a break. This allows the learner to continue later with the same eligibility that applied when they first started their learning.


We are extending the current breaks in learning rules for ESFA funded AEB and advanced learner loans to:

  • allow a break in learning at the learner's request where a learner is self-isolating, or caring for others affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) and is unable to continue by distance learning and/or an online offer.
  • allow a break in learning to be recorded where a provider is unable to deliver because of the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on their own business and there is no possible delivery by distance and/or online learning.'

If your course is not publicly funded, your course provider will be able to discuss other options that may be available to you.


Guidance from Student Finance Wales states:


'If you suspend your studies Student Finance Wales will reassess your application. Your grant entitlement will then be recalculated based on your period of attendance until you suspended your studies.'

 

To discuss your specific circumstances please speak directly to your course tutor.


How do I apply for a break in learning?


Please contact your course provider who will explain how to apply.


How will you ensure my grades will be fair?


To make sure that grades are fair, AVAs and providers will ensure grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation, and standardisation. These quality assurance processes will consider any extenuating circumstances identified. As part of the moderation process AVAs may adjust the assessment grades of some assessments upwards or downwards accordingly to ensure that no student is advantaged or disadvantaged.


Can I appeal my grades?


Your provider will have processes in place to support you If you feel your grades during this period do not reflect your previous performance, please speak to your course tutor.


I am currently studying GCSE's or functional skills alongside my access to he diploma, what happens about these qualifications?


GCSEs and functional skills are regulated by Ofqual and we recommend that you speak to your course tutor or refer to the information produced by Ofqual.


I wasn't due to finish my diploma until after 31 July 2020, but my circumstances have changed which means I have more time to study - can I finish earlier?


You should speak to your course provider to find out if it is possible for you to complete earlier. In some cases, it may be possible to complete some units of study earlier than planned which may mean you can complete your Diploma before your original end date.


Your Diploma will be awarded and quality assured under the current QAA grading scheme. This means a grade will be awarded for every graded Level 3 unit that you complete successfully. Your Access to HE Diploma comprises 45 credits from graded Level 3 units, and 15 credits from Level 2 or Level 3 units that are not graded.


The grade awarded for each unit will be shown on the achievement transcript that is issued with your Access to HE Diploma. The transcript also shows how many credits were awarded for each successfully completed graded or ungraded unit.


Further advice and information


If you need further information, please take a look at our frequently-asked questions for student due to complete by 31 July 2020 and/or contact your provider.


FAQs for Access to HE providers

 

Frequently asked questions for Access to HE providers are published on the QAA website.