An update from your VP Education, Emi Dowse
On the 12th January I attended the UTLQC. Thank you to everyone who emailed me your feedback and who voted in the poll, this helped me raise the following points at the UTLQC:.
- Firstly, I clarified that when students are asking for a safety net this is something to fall back on if their grades drop due to the circumstances such as only taking their best 60 credits, and automatic Extenuating Circumstances (EC’s).
- I then fed back the results of the poll on the UPSU website, acknowledging that while the question was broad it showed that students felt they need and wanted additional support. Of the 4545 students who completed the poll 98.5% (or 4478 students) answered “yes” to the question “should the Uni reinstate the safety net introduced in the first lockdown?”
- Finally, I raised the reasons for wanting a safety net– examples include, but aren’t restricted to - parents with children at home, home issues, general learning environment, COVID-related issues and bereavement. The biggest effect is the impact on mental health with students coming to us at a crisis point. There are also students who are struggling to defer at this point in the year due to finance and struggles.
The response from the UTLQC was as follows:
The committee acknowledged that this year has been tough for students and they are concerned about student’s wellbeing, they empathise with the struggles that students are facing as many of the staff are also facing them. It was noted that we are starting to see chronic issues with hardware and WIFI which can affect students’ ability to access learning and the committee hopes that the new hardship fund will be a start to addressing students struggles with WIFI, hardware and rent (read the VC's statement from 13th January, emailed to all students, here) being launched should address students' struggles with WIFI, hardware and rent etc.
Work has now been done to inform students of what support was implemented in last year’s Safety Net is still available (an update was sent to all students on 12th January, view it here) and the Extenuating Circumstances page (which you can view here) has been updated to include issues caused by COVID such as illness, WIFI troubles, childcare etc. Students should also know that most claims are being accepted at the moment however there is a delay so please don’t worry if you don’t hear back immediately.
The committee agrees that what we have in place currently is not enough due to the current circumstances and they are now looking into what we can implement to further support students without devaluing their degree.
The UTLQC acknowledged that students would like something similar to the 'best of 60' approach which was implemented last year, however, they are concerned that this would devalue the degrees, as it would mean final year students would potentially graduate with a degree based on 120 credits which would damage the quality of the degree and risk some employers or universities not accepting them in the future. They also need to achieve a standard of quality expected by the Government and PSRBS.
Finally, I think it’s important for me to say that the committee was really understanding and empathetic to the challenges students are currently facing. They all do want what’s best for the students and will look forward to revisiting the safety net but with a view of quality and standards. Even if ‘best of’ isn’t the right approach, they will be looking into suitable alternatives.