Updates from SUSU
Since the start of the pandemic we know students have had to deal with a lot of changes and growing uncertainty, and that this has significantly impacted your academic performance, finances and mental health.
At SUSU we are working hard for all our students. We are here to represent and support you. We have been working with our Academic Representatives and Student Officers as well as with other Students’ Unions to make sure your voice is heard. Below you can find a summary of what our Sabbatical team are working on, talking to the University about, and lobbying on your behalf for.
Return to activity for Clubs and Societies
Following the recent changes in Government guidelines we've been working hard with the University to open up more spaces which can be used for club and society activity. It's not too late to get involved with a club or society! A full list of them all can be found here: Clubs and Societies.
We are still gathering feedback on your experiences of using the University’s Enabling Services. If you have any feedback on how Enabling Services could improve you can attend one of our feedback sessions on Tuesday 20 April or Thursday 22 April. You can also leave anonymous feedback via our online form: Enabling Services Survey.
Register to vote
For students currently based in the UK don’t forget you can register to vote in the upcoming local elections & PCC elections! Register at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote. The deadline is midnight on Monday 19 April.
We've been working hard with our Academic Reps to gather feedback about your recent assessment period. We've since met with the University to highlight the areas that need improvement as well as the things that went well.
Following on from these discussions we'll be working closely with the University to ensure all communication is clear and that students understand the measures in place to support you through the next assessment period.
We want to hear your experiences of using the University’s Enabling Services. If you have any feedback on how Enabling Services could improve their services or would like to share your experience of using Enabling Services, please complete this form: Enabling Services Survey. Your feedback can be anonymous if you prefer.
Communications with the University and MPs
Following on from our continued discussions, the University has agreed to be more flexible with students returning to campus, however we will continue to work with them regarding the four requests on behalf of the student body, including tuition fee refunds and halls fees. You can read the statement from the Vice Chancellor here.
Having written to our four local MPs last week, we have now received a reply from Royston Smith (MP for Southampton Itchen) and you can read his response here.
This week we have also sent out a press release to local media detailing our current lobbying work and calling for government support for students. You can find our press release here.
We would also encourage students to use the template letter and send to your local MP, asking for their support in lobbying the government. Letter to your MP - Student Version (Sharepoint link).
We held a Halls Forum on Thursday 4th March – find out everything that was discussed from your Halls Officer, Paddy, by watching this video.
Letter to your Local MPs
In response to our letter we sent to the University, we have received a reply from the Vice Chancellor. You can read our letters here: SUSU requests on behalf of the student body (PDF).
We continue to keep discussions open with both the University and other Russell Group SU Presidents. This week we have also written to our local MPs, Steve Brine, Royston Smith, Alan Whitehead, and Caroline Nokes, asking for their support in lobbying the Government for further support for students. You can read the full letter here: SUSU letter to members of Parliament (PDF).
We have also drafted a version for students to use as a template which you can personalise and send to your local MP: Letter to your MP - Student Version (Sharepoint link).
Expect Respect: our anti-harassment campaign
This week we launched Expect Respect, our anti-harassment campaign in partnership with the University. As part of the campaign a new Report and Support tool has been launched, to provide a secure environment for those affected by harassment and bullying to speak out about unacceptable behaviour and to get support. More information can be found here: Report and Support tool.
Letter to the University
Following on from our update on Monday 01 March. We're continuing our conversations with the University regarding our letter to the VC outlining four requests on behalf of the student body, including tuition fee refunds and halls fees. You can read the full letter here: Letter to the University 26 February 2021.
We're also in conversations with other Russell Group SU Presidents to discuss these issues further. Please look out for further updates on this, we are continuing to make sure your voice is heard.
Letter to the University
On Friday 26 March we sent a letter to the University asking them to consider and reply to our four requests on behalf of the student body, which you can read below. You can read the letter in full here: Letter to the University 26 February 2021.
- All students, particularly international students (due to the level of their fees and the disproportionate impact they have experienced) should receive a refund for the academic year 2020-21
- Students who cannot or do not wish to return to campus from 08 March or 12 April should receive an equivalent learning experience (with the exception of those students who are required to attend a face-to-face component of their course in order to progress/graduate). Those students not wishing to return should not be disadvantaged as a result.
- Students who cannot or do not choose to return to campus when they are allowed to should be released from their Halls contracts with no charge incurred for Term 3.
- The University should commit to continuing to work with SUSU and our academic reps to address issues of the consistency of quality of all aspects of this year’s learning experience, including assessments and feedback. In due course, we would also like to explore the positive aspects of this year which are worth retaining in future years, even when a return to our previous normality is possible (the flexibility offered by recorded lectures, for example, as well as the use of Teams).
Clubs and Societies return to activity
Following on from the Government's announcement, SUSU will be working with our clubs and societies to support them in their return to activity. We'll be working alongside committees and Sport & Wellbeing to try and get outdoor sports and societies back by Monday 29 March, with the aim for indoor sports and societies to go back from Monday 17 May. These dates are subject to government guidelines but we are working hard to get activity happening soon. We're also working to provide a Rescue Package for our clubs and societies to support them in returning to activity.
All Student Vote
At the start of February, SUSU received a petition request for us to lobby the University to reduce international students' tuition fees. This was signed by 490 students, which then led straight into an All Student Vote. A total of 4,832 students voted, with 98% of voters backing the idea that international students should be given a tuition fee rebate. Olivia (Union President) will now be lobbying the Vice Chancellor of the University to offer all students a rebate. Please look out for further updates about this.
Privately Rented Accommodation and Private Halls
Following on from our update on the 5th February we have now launched our joint letter with Solent Students’ Union and Winchester Students’ Union to landlords and Private Halls providers. We have worked with closely with the University and both they and us have contacted local private halls providers and SASSH landlords asking them to show flexibility with students in recognition of the exceptional and very difficult circumstances.
Our letters are now available to view and save via the links below. We would encourage you to forward these letters to your landlord or private halls provider if would like them to show flexibility.
Following on from this we will be writing to local MPs, the Government, and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and we will provide updates next week.
Postgraduate Research (PGR) Forum
This week we hosted a PGR forum online, inviting PGRs across the university to speak to us about the issues they are facing. It gave our PGR students the chance to feedback their concerns directly to us. This ranged from issues around funding, access to labs, the affects that Covid has had on their research and the support they are receiving. Our next step is looking at the ways we, as SUSU, can help support PGRs. We'll also be taking all the feedback we received to the Doctoral College and the University, and we'll arrange another forum in the near future. We would like to thank all the students who came and spoke to us at the Forum, rest assured we will be lobbying on your behalf.
All Student Vote
This week as a result of a successful petition we have launched an All Student Vote on the following statement: The University should reduce international students' tuition fees. You can have you say on whether you agree (by voting yes or no) at susu.org/vote. Voting will close on Tuesday 23 February at 16:00.
Privately Rented Accommodation and Private Halls
We know that a major concern for many of our students is rent payments as well as the uncertainty experienced due to Covid-19 and the Government’s National Restrictions. We have been working hard to support our students in privately rented accommodation and private halls. As such, SUSU has now joined forces with Solent Student’s Union and Winchester Student Union to write a letter to local landlords and private halls providers. We are also working with the University to ensure a joined up approach to this.
We are asking landlords in Southampton and Winchester to consider the situation of students living in their accommodation and to make adjustments where possible. We are asking for students who are not currently occupying their accommodation to be either; released from tenancy contracts or have their rent reduced accordingly. For students in private halls (sometimes called PBSAs) we are asking for providers in the city to voluntarily:
- Allow students to be released from tenancy contracts if they wish, without financial penalties.
- Refund 100% of rent for the weeks during the 3rd national lockdown in which students have been advised to not return to the city and be on campus, in line with national government guidance.
- Commit to not charging rent for students who are not occupying rooms.
- Refund the rent paid by students that never moved into their accommodation.
- Refund the rent for the weeks during the travel window before Christmas when students were planning to travel home were legally obliged to leave their student accommodations early.
As the UK continues to be in a national lockdown, it has become increasingly clear that the quality of students’ educational experience is not the same as in a normal year. Several universities around the UK have joined forces to create the Students United Against Fees campaign (SUAF). We are pleased to have been involved in the creation of the campaign and following a vote from our Union Senate, SUSU has opted to join, support and promote the campaign.
The goal of the campaign is to gain national traction in demonstrating that students are not satisfied with what their universities are able to offer in these times and the campaign calls on Government to recognise this and intervene by offering students compensation for tuition fees. Many university staff and lecturers have put in significant effort to make this year work as well as possible for students. However, this year has not been the one expected and we believe that tuition fees must be lowered and refunded. You can join the campaign by filling out the sign up form to show your support and receive updates.
We continue to lobby the University on the key issues affecting our students. We are here to make sure your voice is heard.
University Halls Rent Rebates
Before Christmas we received lots of feedback from students about refunds for Halls fees. This led to a petition for SUSU to lobby the University for a refund of January halls fees for all students. This was signed by 445 students in 8 hours and as such went straight into an All-Student Vote which received a total of 2704 votes (with 95% of students supporting it). We were able to use this, alongside all the other feedback we had received, to lobby the University to bring about the rent rebates. You can find further indormation about the rebates on the University's website: Campus facilities, libraries and Halls FAQs
We are continuing to campaign and support our students in privately rented accommodation and private halls.
Your Academic Experience
We have received a huge amount of feedback from both our academic reps and individual students about the impact of Covid on their academic experience. We worked closely with our amazing academic reps to collate this feedback and take to the University. As such mitigation measures were introduced; these include automatic coursework deadline extensions, a reviewed and simplified Special Considerations process, and comparison of cohort module performance with previous years. You can read University FAQs on teaching, studying and assessment here: Teaching, Studying and Assessment FAQs.
As well as lobbying the University we have also been working alongside other Students’ Unions to lobby the Government.
The All-Party Parliament Group (APPG) launched an inquiry to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ tuition and accommodation, and the case for compensation. We were invited to submit written evidence and will continue to lobby both the University and local MPs, as well as the Government.