As we continue to work remotely in your interests, we wanted to update you on SMSU’s stance surrounding the Government’s recent announcement on the new COVID-19 restrictions. To date, the Government has been estimated to have spent approximately £210bn on the pandemic with, you guessed it, NONE going towards supporting Universities on areas such as learning and teaching costs or accommodation fees. As your Officer Team, our utmost aim is to support you and to advocate on your behalf. We know the last few weeks have been full of uncertainty and fear, so we hope that the following points will provide some clarity on what we’re currently doing for you.
We believe that students should get a fair deal on accommodation.
- To date, if you’re living in University-run accommodation, you should have received a refund for December in recognition of the Government's request for students to leave accommodation early. In addition to this, refunds should have been received by those of you who are not returning to accommodation from January 4th - 20th
- For those of you living in private accommodation, we are asking the University to increase the Hardship Fund to ensure no student is left struggling to pay rent. We have also constructed this letter which is available for you to send to your landlord should you be facing financial difficulties
- We are now lobbying both the University and Government for full contract breaks for those of you who do not wish to return to your accommodation this year as well as the option to defer a contract until in-person teaching resumes. We are partaking in joint action with universities across the United Kingdom to call on the University and Government to provide funding to address this national issue of student accommodation.
- Support us by signing this petition calling on the Government to reimburse student rent not used during the 20/21 academic year.
We believe that you should never suffer academically because of stress and disruption caused by lockdowns and COVID-19.
- We are currently working with the University to determine how a ‘No Detriment’ Policy could be reintroduced – a ‘No Detriment’ policy means that students' degrees will be protected from being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is an ongoing process, and we will be advocating for this to be put in place to ensure every student is supported during this time.
- In addition, we are currently working with the University to advocate for clearer information and access to extenuating circumstances. We are asking the University to ensure extenuating circumstances are approved before exams rather than after the exam has taken place and provide greater information around what the University is doing to ensure extenuating circumstances of individual students are given the utmost consideration.
- We are calling on the University to implement a University- wide policy that ensures all teaching is recorded and made available online. We are also calling for confirmation that staff are provided with the accurate equipment that will ensure the quality of online teaching, particularly for students with visual or hearing impairments.
- We are demanding the Government reduce tuition fees for the 20/21 academic year. Students have not received access to the appropriate services that would allow the term ‘blended learning’ to be an accurate representation of the past academic year.
- You can support us in doing this in a number of ways such as signing this petition calling on the government to reduce these fees, and by writing to your local MP using this template, calling on their support within parliament to address University Fees and Student Accommodation.
- We are calling on the University to add to existing funds within the student hardship fund. In addition, the University must provide greater transparency and broadcasting of the support available to students facing hardship and ensure it is accessed by those most in need.
We are working alongside Student Unions across the United Kingdom to call on action from our Universities and Government, and ask you to continue in your efforts in lobbying for change. We are working to ensure that you get the answers and support you need as quickly as possible, so we appreciate your patience with this – we will continue to update as often as possible. We want to hear from you, support you and represent you, so please reach out to us - you can find details of how to get in touch with us here.
Summary of Actions
What we are asking from the University:
- A clear, and timely published no detriment policy that accurately reflects the turmoil faced by students this year.
- Changes to the current Extenuating Circumstances policy that ensure students know whether they are approved before an exam.
- Introduce a policy that requires all teaching be made available online, and a quality assurance of these recordings.
- Implement a no penalty contract-break for students who will not return to campus alongside the option to defer a contract until in-person teaching resumes.
- An increase in the University Hardship Fund to ensure no student is left struggling.
- The VC to hold a Q+ A with students directly addressing their concerns.
- A statement of support from the University showing their solidarity with SMSU in their requests to the Government
What we are asking for from the UK Government:
- To work with universities in reimbursing student rent for accommodation not used during the 20/21 academic year.
- For the Government to reduce tuition fees for the 20/21 academic year.
What we are asking from you:
- Sign the attached petitions
- Write to your local MP
- Continue to lobby for change via social media
- Speak to us about the struggles you are facing so we can continue to advocate on your behalf
Your Officer Team,
Níamh (Education President)
Charlie (Student Life President)
Maisie (Sports President)
This letter is available in a downloadable format here.