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.
LGBTQ+ Exclusive Flats in Halls of Residence
Savanna Cutts, your VP Welfare and Community, has shared an update about a fantastic new initiative for LGBTQ+ exclusive flats in University halls of residence, which will be put in place ready for the 2022-2023 academic year:
"I'm really pleased to announce that an idea put forward by Jamie Norton (LGBTQ+ Officer) for there to be LGBTQ+ exclusive flats in halls of residences has been successful! This will be implemented by the University's Residences team ready for accommodation in the 2022-2023 academic year.
This will benefit many students in the LGBTQ+ community and hopefully contribute to them feeling safe, welcome and secure whilst at Southampton. It also follows the likes of other universities who have implemented similar projects, including Bristol, Sheffield, Solent and more. It has been a great project to work on with Jamie and I'm really proud to see the result that has been achieved."
Jamie Norton, LGBTQ+ Officer, adds: "Leaving home and coming to university is a pivotal point in the lives of so many students, uprooting themselves from their family and friends to start their journey through higher education. For LGBTQ+ students this can mean independence and freedom, but this isn’t without uncertainty and anxiety.
The new LGBTQ+ flats program will help take one worry off the backs of queer students, helping ensure they have a home at UoS where they feel comfortable to be themselves, not having to hide who they are from those around them. Thank you to the whole Residences team as well as Savanna for making this possible!"
Some key information about how the LGBTQ+ flats will work:
- LGBTQ+ friendly accommodation will be offered from the 22/23 academic year onwards.
- It will be for LGBTQ+ students only.
- There will be no indication included in contracts that a room is in a LGBTQ+ friendly flat.
- Applicants will tick a box to indicate they would like to be considered for a LGBTQ+ room when applying for accommodation.
- There will be no external indicators on the flats to identify them as LGBTQ+ Friendly .
- SUSU's proposal to the University recommends 6 flats to be designated as LGBTQ+ Friendly accommodation for 22/23, comprising 42 rooms, with potential to expand if demand requires.
If you have any questions please get in touch with Savanna at email@example.com.
Second Response Letter from the Vice Chancellor
On Friday 14 January we received a second response letter from the University's Vice Chancellor, which you can read below or via the link here: Second Response Letter from the Vice Chancellor (PDF).
Thank you for your further open letter of Friday 14th January. I want to reassure you that UEB has been weighing up all the points you make in your note alongside for example factors including academic design and rigour of the assessment as well as the student views as you have been communicating, and has tried to balance all of the factors.
You state ‘that the University has repeatedly assured students that, were circumstances to change significantly, measures were in place to move assessments online. I now strongly believe that such conditions for change have been met.’ UEB did discuss this very question of whether conditions have changed at meetings this week and considered the objective indicators of change with input from our health and safety professionals. It was very clear that to date conditions have not changed in any meaningful respect that would require a change in our assessment plans.
You also call on the University ‘to urgently delay the January assessment window by one week’ to allow time to change planned in-person assessments to online assessments. In the very comprehensive discussions of UEB this has been considered as a potential course of action. However, there are several reasons for which UEB does not believe that this is the right course at this point in time. Chief amongst them is the very significant disruption it would cause to almost all students who have been preparing for examinations to start next week (and who would in some cases have unreasonably short notice of such a significant change). Trying to reschedule teaching and other activities would also cause other further significant subsequent disruption to the student body. It has concluded that this would be at best an action of last resort were the underlying public health situation to change significantly for the worse.
As I said in my last letter, we do of course recognise and acknowledge the concerns of members of the student body concerning in-person teaching and assessment: as you know, these concerns have been carefully considered and have led us to reconsider and test our view that both our in-person assessment and our in-person teaching arrangements are safe and compliant with the current Government and University COVID guidelines. Again, we are assured that they are both safe and compliant.
Mark E. Smith
President and Vice Chancellor
Third Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor: Urgent request for University to delay exam window
Today we have sent a third Open Letter to the University's Vice Chancellor, urgently requesting the University delay the January exam window: Third Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor (PDF).
I firstly want to thank you for your considered response to my two open letters. For both of us, the past week has been an intensely busy week, and for you to get back to me with your thoughts is greatly appreciated. I also want to acknowledge my understanding and appreciation of the fact that members of the University Executive Board have put a great deal of thought into the decision to continue with a large minority of assessments in-person.
However, there remains a great deal of concern in the student body about the University’s decision, and I do now believe that there is a window of opportunity for us to agree a path forward today, and I set out my rationale for this below.
In your response to my letter, you state that students have had adequate time to prepare for in-person assessments. However, this does not recognise that the University has repeatedly assured students that, were circumstances to change significantly, measures were in place to move assessments online. I now strongly believe that such conditions for change have been met.
A significant number of students have contacted my colleagues and myself over the past few days to express two chief concerns. Firstly, assurances from the University that the physical conditions of in-person assessments are safe do not match with the lived experiences of students who have already sat their exams this week. Students have reported a lack of social distancing, crowding in corridors, no checks on testing, and visibly symptomatic peers coughing in their proximity. Secondly, students have reported that they and their peers are actively declining to test for Covid-19 prior to attending in-person examinations on campus because of the lack of clarity from the University on special considerations mitigations. Many are concerned that, if required to isolate and retake their exams, they will be unable to progress or graduate in the summer with their friends and coursemates. This is creating a real health risk to students and staff in the exam hall, with potentially damaging consequences for the wellbeing of students, and the reputation of the University.
I understand that it is now impractical to alter the method of assessment for students due to take their exams next week. For this reason, I am now calling on you to urgently delay the January assessment window by one week, to provide University colleagues with sufficient time to finalise Plan B preparations – for those exams which can possibly be moved online - and to communicate the shift to online assessments to students. This would, of course, mean either compressing two weeks of teaching in Semester One, or pushing the last teaching week of Semester One to after the spring vacation.
I believe that this is a reasonable compromise, and would enable us both to reassure students that their health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance to the University, and that the student voice is listened to by the University executive.
President of the University of Southampton Students’ Union
Response Letter from the University's Vice Chancellor
This afternoon we received a response from the University's Vice Chancellor, which you can read below or via the link here: Response letter from the University's Vice Chancellor (PDF).
Thank you for your two open letters this week in response to the decision of the University Executive Board to continue with our plans for examinations this term. You will understand that I have wanted to ensure time for full and proper consideration of these before replying to you.
As you know from attending the University Executive Board yourself, we have given very significant consideration to the issues that you have presented on behalf of the student community. In the last 10 days alone there have been three meetings of the Executive Board, including an additional meeting on 13th January to consider both your open letters, and three meetings of the Education Silver Command group, chaired by our Vice-President Education and attended by our Associate Deans Education for each of our faculties. At each of these meetings, all the issues you have presented have been discussed at length, by colleagues who understand both the rationale for the assessment schemes that have been designed for this period and the importance of ensuring the well-being of our students
I want to thank you for the thoughtful and open way that you contributed to the many hours of discussion on this matter, and for sharing students’ views. As you know from being present at a number of these meetings, this was not a decision that was taken lightly or quickly.
Much of the content of your letters focusses on the request to move assessments and examinations online. It is important from the outset to point out that we are already running nearly 60% of our assessments online, and that where this is not the case it is as a result of significant planning and scrutiny. As you will have heard in our discussions, we have planned our examinations extremely carefully on a subject-by-subject basis. The mix of in-person and online exams has been considered at length during the autumn term at both School and University levels, to determine what is in the best interests of our students’ ongoing education at Southampton. In drawing up their assessment plans, Schools have drawn on their experience of what worked well and what was less successful during the lockdown periods of last year. As such, our choices of assessment have prioritised the relevance, inclusivity and academic rigour that is expected of us, and that our accrediting bodies require.
The University certainly acknowledges the feeling in the student community as indicated in the outcome of the student vote. The student vote did lead to extensive discussion on whether any change should be made to the plans. The student vote was one of a number of important pieces of information that contributed to our decision on how to proceed this term. Given the very extensive consideration of all these factors, we do not feel there is any new information or changed circumstances which would now warrant that decision being re-considered.
Whilst we of course recognise and acknowledge the concerns of some of the student body, it is important to note that throughout the pandemic the University has always taken, and continues to take, every precaution to reduce potential risks for both students and staff. Rigorous risk assessments have been carried out, we continue to operate our unique twice-weekly saliva testing programme, and we continue to be guided by the prevailing Government advice as well as the advice of our local public health bodies. In respect of examinations, we are only using venues that have sufficient space to allow for our COVID safety measures to be put in place, we are working with our invigilators to ensure they are overseeing the safe use of exam venues we are sending direct communications to students on how to enter and exits venues safely and reminding them of their responsibilities in keeping each other safe. We are confident that both our in-person assessment and our in-person teaching arrangements are safe and compliant with the current Government and University COVID guidelines
With this in mind, the Executive Board identified that:
- The potential risk to students through in-person examinations is being actively and properly managed, just as it has been for in-person teaching, which students have been so keen to engage with.
- The assessment design process that has been undertaken was rigorous and robust, and intended to enable our students to succeed, and recommended by those directly involved in their teaching.
- It had been clear throughout the autumn term that it was likely that we would be offering a mix of inperson and online examinations and this mix would be used if the prevailing national advice regarding face-to-face activity was the same as in the autumn term, this is the case.
- Students have known that we would be offering in-person examinations and that we announced our examinations timetable on 3rd December, enabling students to prepare for their examinations in either in-person or online format.
- Where you have provided feedback on the experience of students early in the assessment period, and other elements of student intention such as the intention not to test, we will make change. This includes improving signage at examination venues, and the provision of additional communications on the responsibilities for all to operate a safe environment and a reminder of our Community Code of Conduct.
- The e-mail that you cited relating to invigilation was simply to increase the number of potential standby invigilators, recognising numbers needing to self-isolate remain constant. It is quite normal for us ask for volunteers from our staff to help with student-related events, such as open days, graduations and clearing.
We fully explored the issues of anxiety which we acknowledge will be caused by a whole range of factors and indeed recognised that the prospect of sitting exams now may be daunting for some of our students. However, we remain confident that we have extensive pastoral and academic support in place for our students through our academic areas, our Academic Skills Centre and Student Services.
In the event that a student’s ability to attend an in-person exam is affected by COVID or any other illness – for example, because a positive COVID test required them to self-isolate - our ‘special considerations’ process exists to provide an opportunity to share this and for alternative arrangements to be explored.
Professor Mark E. Smith CBE
President and Vice-Chancellor
Second Open Letter to the University's Vice Chancellor
You can read the second open letter below, or view it here: Second open letter to the University's Vice Chancellor (PDF)
I hope you are well. I am reaching out to you as a follow-up to the open letter that I sent to you yesterday, to which I have yet to receive a response. Since my initial letter, further information has come to light, which I think it appropriate to bring to your attention when considering the University’s position on in-person assessments this month.
Firstly, the Students’ Union has been made aware of an email which has been circulated among postgraduate research students, asking them to be made available to invigilate assessments for undergraduates. This is because University staff have dropped out of invigilating due to, “worries about Omicron, or supporting family members in providing care for their dependents, as well as higher-than-normal sickness absence”. It is acutely saddening to hear that, while the University recognises the real and perceived risks to invigilating staff whilst our region is in the peak of a surge of Covid cases, it seemingly does not recognise the same risks which face our students. Given the shortage of invigilating staff, students believe that it would be fairer to protect the safety and wellbeing of all members of our University community, as opposed to prioritising that of casual staff, employed through Uniworkforce.
Secondly, I have been contacted by students who have reported that they and their peers intend not to test themselves for Covid-19 prior to sitting exams. This is because of the uncertainty surrounding the consequences of a positive test, or requirement for self-isolation, for those being assessed. There is a real fear among our members that their academic progression, or final classification, will be delayed, if they fail to attend an examination. If students fail to test prior to in-person assessment, the University could see a surge of Covid cases, self-isolation, and further disruption to teaching and learning.
Furthermore, it has been reported that the University will not accept anxiety, or other mental health-related Covid concerns – or, indeed, the desire to protect vulnerable relatives – as a valid reason for failing to attend an in-person assessment. If students wish to submit a special considerations request, weeks of further anxiety and uncertainty will inevitably follow, while the exam boards deliberate. You will understand - from my communication shared with yourself and other members of the University Council yesterday – that levels of student anxiety are already high. Such foreseeable disarray could be avoided were the University to agree to move all possible exams online, a situation for which all academic staff have been asked to prepare.
Thank you, as ever, for your partnership with me, and I look forward to receiving your response.
Ben Dolbear, President of the University of Southampton Students' Union
Open Letter to the University's Vice Chancellor
You can read the open letter below, or view it here: Open letter to the University's Vice Chancellor (PDF)
I hope you are well. As you know, we have had robust discussions around the way in which the University assesses its students this month, given the surge of the Omicron variant. The number of Southampton students self-isolating has, in recent weeks, risen to well over triple figures. As the student who launched our successful petition on in-person exams says, "[w]ith case rates as high as they are, infections in the exam hall are not only likely but inevitable; this will endanger vulnerable students, add additional pressure to the NHS during an already strained time, and prevent people from learning as effectively at the start of the second semester. This requirement also endangers members of University staff who invigilate and organise the exams, who are potentially exposed to infection". Not only this, but the number of students having to miss their examinations due to self-isolation is likely to be disruptively high. As such, we are expecting the University to receive a surge of special considerations requests, appeals, and calls for no-detriment mitigations, all of which will require significant resource from the University in coming months.
As you know, this petition reached the threshold of 250 student supporters in under ten minutes and, when put to an All Student Vote, garnered over 7,000 votes, 95% of which were in favour of moving January exams online. Students have given me the clearest of mandates to lobby the University to change the way they assess students in January, and it has therefore come as no surprise to me that students are deeply disappointed and distressed that the University has not conceded that a change of approach might now be appropriate. This is despite repeated assurances from the University that if the Covid situation were to change dramatically, the method of assessment could be reviewed. I have valued playing a role in our conversations of the past few days, but I think that it is regrettable that we stand as a stark outlier among our Russell Group colleagues in not recognising the real and perceived risks that students are feeling in relation to in-person examinations.
In addition, a number of our student members have been in contact with one of our local MPs, Dr Alan Whitehead, who has provided us with the following statement:
"I have been contacted by a number of students and their representatives who are worried about the policy of having exams in person this January.
With cases of covid-19 as high as they are right now this decision will mean that many students are not able to sit exams if they are isolating and those that can will be at greater risk of contracting the virus.
I am worried about the wellbeing of Southampton students in light of this decision and I understand that a vote has been taken with the majority asking for exams to be moved online. I was impressed at the turnout of this vote having been once involved in student votes myself and I think it shows the strength of feeling on this issue.
I would urge the decision makers at University of Southampton to think again about moving to in person exams at what is the height of covid-19 cases. I understand we are all eager to get back to some semblance of normality but I think this move is being made at the wrong time."
I very much hope that the University is able to recognise the strength of feeling among the student community, and agrees to the necessary change to January assessments that I am requesting on their behalf.
Ben Dolbear, President of the University of Southampton Students' Union
Exams during Covid: update from Ben Dolbear, your Union President
I am deeply disappointed to share with students that the University's executive has taken the decision to push forward with in-person exams this month.
This is despite the overwhelming result of last week's All-Student Vote, which saw unprecedented numbers of affected students participating in our democratic processes to express their fears regarding in-person exams. The vote received 7,331 votes in 40 hours (with 95% of votes in favour), and SUSU subsequently lobbied the University on behalf of students to move January exams online. The students who voted were clear that because of the ongoing concerns about Covid, they did not feel it was safe or necessary to sit exams in person.
The decision also comes despite encouragement from the University's executive last week that the student voice would be taken into full consideration when coming to a decision.
It is despite the requirement of all academic staff to prepare a thorough contingency plan for moving January exams online, if necessary.
It is despite extensive lobbying at every opportunity from our VP Education & Democracy, Lottie James, and myself, representing the 95% of students who voted and who have clearly told the University they do not want to go ahead with in-person exams.
SUSU believes that the University has come to a regrettable position that will make a large number of students feel unsafe. As such, we will now be sending an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, asking him to change the University's position on in-person exams. We will, as always, continue to update students with any progress.
All Student Vote: Exams During Covid
Following a petition being submitted earlier this week by a student, which very quickly gained well over the required 250 signatures, SUSU held an All Student Vote which asked students to vote on whether they thought the University should move exams online in light of ongoing concerns about Covid.
The All Student Vote needed to achieve quoracy of 10% of all students voting and this figure was reached within a few hours of the vote going live. Because of the need to move quickly to lobby the University, we decided to close the vote early and act on the clear mandate received from students.
The All Student Vote was only open for 40 hours and 7,331 students voted, representing 30% of the total student body. 95% of votes were in favour of the University moving exams online, and we will now be taking the results of the vote to the University Senior Management and lobbying them to act accordingly.
If you have any questions please contact Lottie, our VP Education & Democracy: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Friday 07 January Ben, our Union President, took the results of the All Student Vote to the University Education Board and presented the argument on behalf of the students who voted. It was discussed thoroughly and there will be an update from the University early next week (w/c 10.01.21). Until further updates have been received, exams will go ahead as planned. We'll provide you with updates as soon as they become available.
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.
Statement to Agents and Landlords of Southampton (PDF)
Statement to Student Accommodation Providers (PDF)
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.