Image Credit: John Husband
The Students’ Unions of Russell Group Universities have written an open letter to Dr Bradshaw and the Russell Group Vice-Chancellors on behalf of the students they represent, urging immediate action addressing the effects of the pandemic on university education.
The representatives made it clear that recognition from the Vice-Chancellors of the ongoing impacts on education and the importance of safety net policies, are major priorities for the student body. Many students have found themselves in situations where they are ‘unable to access certain libraries, resources, and study spaces that are necessary for many students to succeed academically’.
The Students’ Unions believe that the circumstances last year which put students in an ‘unfairly disadvantaged’ position are still in place, meaning that ‘mitigating policies’ remain a necessity. The Students’ Unions believe that ‘no detriment policies’ will allow the ‘integrity of all academic standards and outcomes’ to be upheld, but also that ‘no student should be disadvantaged by any mitigating measures introduced’. A ‘level playing field’ needs to be created by considering the ‘full magnitude of the pandemic and its effect on education’.
The Students’ Union representatives have set out a list of demands they hope will mitigate the universal and continuing impact of the pandemic, if they are fulfilled. Firstly, they have asked universities to publish individual and clear mitigation policies for students. Secondly, they have asked for the universities to ‘demonstrate how any policies implemented will take into account the different needs of all students’, recognising that ‘one policy’ does not fit all.
Thirdly, the Students’ Unions have asked universities to allow students to ‘self certify for mitigating circumstances and remove the burden of proof from students’. Next, it was demanded that universities use ‘best practice across the sector’, for example, by following the University of York’s lead in weighting the 2020/21 academic year less heavily than other years. Finally, it was asked that Student Officers and academic representatives be communicated with to ensure adequate cooperation with the student body.
The representatives hope to continue the discussion on an individual basis with universities in the future, ensuring that mitigation policies consider students and institutions on a more individualised basis.