THOUSANDS of Scottish students are declaring serious concerns over their futures as it has emerged eight in ten are worried about the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on their exams and assessments.

It comes as Herald research has found one in three of Scotland's universities has still not given a clear formal 'no-detriment' policy - which aims to ensure students are not disadvantaged by the pandemic.

The National Union of Students have called on universities and colleges to adopt ‘no detriment’ policies meaning that students should not be penalised for any dip in their grades as a result of coronavirus-related teaching arrangements.

There are around a quarter of a million students enrolled in Scotland's higher education institutions which have been hit hard by the pandemic, with colleges losing an estimated 10 per cent of its income (£25 million) this academic year alone, according to the Scottish Funding Council.

When the Herald asked the country's 15 universities whether their coronavirus policy ensures all students affected by the pandemic will automatically have their degree grade frozen, meaning they can only improve on it , only five confirmed that they were.

But Universities Scotland say some institutions find the 'no detriment' designation "unhelpful" adding that “fairness” is the best way to describe the approach across the whole sector.

Universities in Scotland that made it clear to the Herald that they have a 'no detriment' policy include Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde.

Analysis by the National Union of Students Scotland has revealed nearly three in four students were concerned to some degree about their job prospects, while 59% were worried about their employability.

Less than half believed they have received helpful support from their educational institution in the coronavirus crisis. Some 70% said they had been kept up to date with the latest news and developments.

It comes as the Prince's Trust called on government, businesses and charities to come together to prevent a youth jobs crisis and to ensure a generation doesn’t lose hope.

Their research conducted during lockdown found over a quarter (27 per cent) of 16 to 25-year olds in Scotland say their future career prospects have already been damaged and 52 per cent say it will be harder than ever to get a job.

HeraldScotland: Richard Lochhead

Last week, Richard Lochhead, the minister for further education, higher education and science in a message circulated to university and college students last week that there would be "fair assessment" principal.

"I recognise this will be an uncertain and difficult time for you all and I understand there has been a lot of concern about your exams and outstanding course work," he said.

"I have had the opportunity in recent weeks to discuss with Colleges Scotland, Universities Scotland and the National Union of Students (NUS) how qualifications will be assessed in a fair way, based on internal assessments and graded units where possible. Across both sectors it is clear that the approach is underpinned by three important principles: fairness to all learners, safe and secure assessment whilst ensuring current public health advice is followed, and maintaining the integrity and credibility of our qualifications. We must ensure that these standards are maintained over time, in the interests of learners.

"For university students, each university has adapted its approach to assessment in light of the pandemic, and has sought to reassure students that a principle of fairness will be applied across the board."

NUS Scotland president Liam McCabe said: "Students are facing unprecedented disruption to their studies as a result of the lockdown, with our research showing that seven in ten students are concerned about the effect of Covid-19 on their final qualification.

"We welcome the statement from the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science committing to fair assessment and expect all institutions to ensure students are treated fairly. NUS Scotland believes institutions should adopt a 'no-detriment' approach to assessment, so no student is academically disadvantaged as a result of this pandemic."

The newly released NUS Scotland survey of over 600 students between March 27 and April 6 covering a range of responses to the coronavirus crisis found that seven in ten students wanted further information or guidance from governments about how their course or degree will be graded or awarded and two in three said they needed more clarity over how this year's work will be assessed.

Some 55% were extremely or very concerned over the impact of coronavirus on their exams while a further 15% were concerned.

Two in three either disagreed, strongly disagreed or were neutral about whether their institution was managing the crisis well.

Nearly 3500 signed a petition over the past month calling for the University of the West of Scotland to implement a a 'no-detriment' policy for end of year exams due the Covid-19 outbreak.

It said: "This means that any work submitted towards their final grade will only improve it and not bring down degree classifications due to circumstances that are out-with our control.

HeraldScotland:

"During this time it is unreasonable for the university to expect students to carry on as normal and risk the current situation impact four years or hard work. We want to work with the university to ensure that exam are implemented fairly and that no student is disadvantaged."

UWS has since put out a statement saying that it "seeks to ensure no detriment" due to the pandemic whilst "maintaining the integrity of their higher education journey".

Some students have continued to questioned whether this is no-detriment, saying they are losing out.

The university was asked whether their policy ensures that all students affected will automatically have their degree grade frozen, meaning they can only improve on it - but did not directly respond, preferring to direct a prepared statement.

Terri Henderson, a fourth year Honours events management student at UWS raised concerns about the university policy with the institution's management saying she felt there had been no progression on implementing the policy from the university other than an email saying that the university was aware that students were anxious and that the they were working on a fair approach.

She was concerned that the university were using the "no-detriment" in its statement - but in reality did not have a policy that any new work submitted could only raise the degree classification and would not bring it down.

"I am angry about it. I have sent multiple emails and getting no thing back.

"They say no-detriment but it is not no-detriment, as is not standardised with the rest of the educational institutions.

"I was at my grandmother's funeral today (Thursday), horrible, and I was still being expected to submit work that is going to go to my degree last week, while dealing with all this.

HeraldScotland:

"Glasgow universities managed to bring out their no detriment policies between March 31 and April 2 - ours was not released till April 17.

"Some students are not passing through no fault of their own. Grades absolutely are being affected."

The NUS Scotland analysis revealed that three in four students had a vocation element to their course, and of those, three quarters believed the Covid-19 outbreak would have a negative impact on that element of their studies.

And of those who received learning support from their institution, just over half feel they have received adequate support to enable them to continue their work to the best of their ability throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The analysis also revealed financial concerns during the pandemic.

Four in five students were concerned about their ability to manage financially during the Covid-19 outbreak while one in four were "very" or "extremely" concerned. Three in four were concerned to some extent about their ability to pay their bills.

Two in five have cut back on food spending to make ends meet.

Three in five felt that the UK government had adequately considered the difficulties students faces as a result of the crisis while almost half agreed the Scottish Government were acting in their best interests.

HeraldScotland: The Paisley campus of the University of the West of Scotland

A Universities Scotland said spokesman said: “In recent weeks principals have been in close touch with NUS Scotland and their own student associations to understand students’ worries about the pandemic’s impact on end of year assessment.

"We’re in agreement that a principle of fairness for students should underpin all decisions universities take when adapting academic regulations around assessment because of coronavirus.

"Universities will each set their own policy on assessment, as was the case before the pandemic, and they are also mindful of the need for academic thresholds and the integrity of the qualifications they offer, but students should be reassured that fairness will apply across the board. The best advice is for students to check the policy at their institution.”

A UWS spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring a fair and reasonable approach to assessment, progression and degree classification for all students, and take a compassionate approach to the current circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Our priority remains to support students and seek to ensure no detriment due to the pandemic whilst maintaining the integrity of their higher education journey.”

Meanwhile in response to the the Prince's Trust and YouGov report, Young People in Lockdown Kate Still, director of The Prince’s Trust in Scotland said: “This paints a truly stark picture of how the coronavirus crisis is impacting young people. An alarming proportion of young people are feeling increased levels of anxiety, and fears are building about their future.

“We cannot allow this crisis to cripple the aspirations and prospects of our nation’s young people. The Prince’s Trust is here to help young people through this challenging time, and government, employers and charities need to work together to stop the economic effects of this pandemic from spiralling out of control.”

Tony Wilson, institute director at the Institute for Employment Studies added: “These figures should be a wake-up call for all of us. There’s clear evidence that being unemployed when you’re young can lead to lasting damage to mental health, income and employment prospects, and it’s very likely that youth unemployment is already higher than it was in the depths of the last recession. Added to this, up to half a million young people will be leaving education this summer into the toughest jobs market in our lifetimes. So we need to act now, to ensure that all young people can access high quality employment, careers and training support, and are guaranteed the offer of a decent job before they become long-term unemployed.”