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Education operating model, 2022-23

Principles and processes for planning an excellent education to all UCL students during the 2022-23 academic session.

Background and context

The Teaching and Assessment Model, 2022-23, agreed by Education Committee on 4 April 2022, is designed to ensure we can:

  • transition successfully from an emergency situation to what we expect will be a more normal academic year
  • provide students with as much information as possible, and
  • allow staff enough time to prepare.

The principles underpinning the model are grounded in effective practice, take account of our Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) obligations and consider our students' experience of education over the past two years. They have been shaped by the regulatory environment and the broader context in which we operate: 

Regulatory environment:

The UK Government has clearly stated that Higher Education providers should deliver face-to-face teaching without restrictions, as it was before the pandemic.

The Office for Students (OfS) requires inform students about our plans for the delivery of teaching in 2022-23 as soon as possible and outline different scenarios; one based on the current circumstances, and one based on changes that would be made in response to changing health advice, so that they are able to make informed choices.

Wider context: 

We have a duty both to acknowledge the challenges students have experienced in education through the pandemic and to learn the lessons about teaching and assessment from the pandemic. We must also support students’ health and wellbeing, and design teaching and assessment to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.

In 2022/23 students will come to their studies with extensive experience of online learning, high expectations about the ways in which online materials and activities will support their learning, and a clear understanding that they will be returning to campus to engage in in-person learning. It is also unsurprising that students will expect ‘the best of both’ in terms of online and on-campus provision because the pandemic has accelerated a trend that was already evident before the pandemic. This blended approach can be particularly important for those students who tend to be disadvantaged by some features of traditional provision.

While we share the government’s ambition to ensure students can access in-person learning in 2022-23 because we are prioritising recovery from the pandemic, we will also work with students, staff and the regulator to find acceptable new blended solutions for future years that will be optimal for a range of different learners.   

We will continue to work together to give our students and staff as much advance notice as possible if there is Covid disruption and if we are required to adapt to new government guidance or directives.  

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Teaching model, 2022-23

Teaching plans for the next academic year must be based these six overarching principles: 

  1. In person, on campus teaching is the default for all programmes except for those that are advertised as online programmes.  

  1. Face-to-face teaching will, where appropriate, be supplemented and enriched by asynchronous materials and activities. This might include pre-recorded video, readings and other activities that can act as preparation or follow-up to in-person teaching.  Care will be needed to ensure that the expected learning effort is not increased overall. The UCL Connected Learning Baseline provides guidance on the minimum expectations for structuring and designing asynchronous resources and activites in Moodle to support in-person teaching. 

  1. All plenary style teaching should be recorded where possible (see UCL guidance on when academic judgement can be used to opt out of recording) to ensure that students who face additional learning challenges are not unduly disadvantaged. There is much evidence that all students find such recordings valuable for learning and revision, and that contemporary students regard this as a baseline expectation.  

  1. ‘Live’ online lectures should be used in limited situations such as where an external speaker is invited and travel would not be practical, or students opt for online engagement in specified circumstances (see point 5 below).  If more students are enrolled than the capacity of a lecture hall permits, departments will need to consider how to meet the requirement for in-person learning. This could include splitting the cohort, double-teaching (i.e. repeat the lectures) where feasible, or finding an alternative solution such that no student is forced to attend online instead of in-person unless there is an offer of additional in-person support to compensate. If live online lectures are required, see our guidance on Choosing the right plaform for live online teaching

  1. For non-lecture teaching (seminars, tutorials, workshops, practicals) students should be attending in-person unless their programme or module was designed to be online (and students were informed before they accepted their place).  There may be circumstances where students are able to opt into an online group for sessions according to their individual circumstances (for example, local temporary lock-downs, school closures that would impact staff and students or specific health vulnerabilities) but a department is taking considerable risks if students are required to join online if they were expecting an in-person programme (unless some additional in-person support is offered - the form of which would be determined locally depending on the specific circumstances).

  1. Overall, it is important that students have no less in-person on-campus contact time (see definition of 'contact hours') than they would have had pre-pandemic. Well-designed asynchronous materials can support delivery of core information and might allow reduction of the amount of time devoted to lecture-style teaching, but any reduction in lecture time will normally need to be replaced by an increase in seminar, tutorial, lab, studio time, or other types of contact.  Note: Lab and practical-based subjects, where students have more than 20 hours per week of face-to-face time might agree with their students that a small number of sessions are better delivered online to reduce some of the pressure on students and to offer a variety of pedagogies.  

'Contact hours': a reminder

In 2022/23, online contact time cannot be used to replace in-person-on-campus time except in the case of emergencies, or if further local or national emergency restrictions are imposed. See our guidance on what is meant by contact hours (in-person contact hours, online contact hours, independant study etc.) 

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Assessment model, 2022-23

Many assessments will remain online in 2022-23 based on what we have learnt during the pandemic and to ensure students are not faced with too many assessments in an unfamiliar format. This decision will also ensure we have as much resilience as possible in case of further disruption.  

1. Digital as default mode for delivering Controlled Condition Written Exams

The default mode for delivering Controlled Condition Written Exams is online. There are circumstances in which face-to face paper-based invigilated exams will be academically appropriate, although the number expected of any individual student should be limited and we certainly should not attempt to return fully to pre-pandemic practices.

  • Acceptable reasons for reintroducing face-to-face Controlled Condition Exams might include, but are not necessarily limited to, the need for:  
    • closed-book knowledge-based and applied knowledge-based recall assessments where proof/possession of that applied knowledge is central to the students’ education and/or learning outcomes 
    • proof of specific skills (e.g., foreign language ability) ‘on the spot’ without recourse to extraneous resources where that is educationally justified and represents an authentic assessment, including the need to demonstrate professional skills and capability requirements 
    • compliance with the latest professional, statutory or regulatory body (PSRB) requirements 
    • assessments where there is a single definitive answer that could otherwise be found through a search and where it is difficult to monitor assessment misconduct or redesign the assessment to mitigate these concerns (e.g., some numerical subjects) 
    • hand-written exams (e.g., equations, diagrams). 
  • Approval for opting out of the digital-first default remains in line with established arrangements via faculty approval of modular assessments: 
    • Departments will be able to request approval from their faculty 1-15 July (as is normal practice) if they wish to opt out of the digital-first default position. This will ensure that urgent changes to assessments are captured for the next academic year and the information is recorded by the Faculty Programmes and Modules Hub. The agreed assessment patterns will then be published in the refresh of the Module Catalogue later that month. 
    • NB: where face-to-face Controlled Condition Written Exams are used, the department must put in place a local carefully scaffolded set of practice exams within the department (these cannot be organised in the ExCel) and students should have the opportunity to receive feedback on the practice exams. This will help to reduce anxiety and ensure ‘exam readiness’. 
    • Where exams are delivered locally, departments are encouraged to examine Term 1-only modules in December or January close to the teaching, rather than concentrating assessments in the main Central Assessment Period.  
    • Where a module is assessed by 100% exam (which should be an exception), departments are encouraged to consider retaining the online default over face-to-face delivery wherever possible, or splitting the assessment. 

2. Most forms of assessment remain unchanged from last academic year

  • All other forms of assessment types described in the 2021-22 Assessment Operating Model (digital remote controlled conditioned exams, practical exams, take-home papers, coursework) will remain unchanged with the exception of the 24-hour scheduling of take-home papers. Take-home papers remain as an option but there is evidence that 24 hours is an unsuitable duration in terms of student wellbeing and academic integrity, and the UCL examinations team are unable to guarantee that a student might not have a timed exam overlapping a 24 hour take-home paper period.
  • Student and staff feedback will be collected after the Central Assessment Period in April/ May 2022. If necessary, a working group will meet over the summer to consider minor amendments to the regulations to ensure that the operating model is working effectively. 

3. Preparations for face-to-face Controlled Condition Exams 

  • Preparations for face-to-face Controlled Condition Exams will follow normal processes. Centrally managed face-to-face exams will be conducted on paper at the ExCeL Centre, using invigilators.
  • These exams should be for a minimum of two and a maximum of three hours duration. Departments should do everything possible to avoid sending students to the external exam facility for short exams (i.e. 60 and 90 minutes). The experience for all students in the hall will also be enhanced if exams are scheduled in whole hours (i.e. 2 or 3 hours).    
  • If it is indicated in their SORA, students will be able to write their paper-based exams on a UCL PC in a designated exams adjustments room. 
  • Academic Regulations and Quality Assurance Sub-Committee (ARQASC) will update the regulations for face-to-face exams.

4. Preparations for online Controlled Condition Exams 

  • Preparations for online Controlled Condition Exams will follow the processes established over the past three years. For online exams, we will continue to promote AssessmentUCL as the main digital assessment platform, while also recognising that other platforms such as Moodle may be more effective for some departmentally managed exams. 
  • UCL Arena will update resources for assessment design to support academic integrity. 
  • Due to reported breaches of privacy laws and known failings in facial recognition software, we will not use remote proctoring for online assessments.

5. Departmentally Managed Exams

The agreed Assessment Operating Model will also apply to departmentally managed assessments. 

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