This is our statement following our meeting with the Vice-Chancellor this morning (26th Feb).
We recently met with the Vice Chancellor and members of the senior management team to discuss issues around the Covid response and particularly the government roadmap to exit restrictions. We are still engaging in discussions around Campus Accommodation, Tuition Fees and the No Detriment Policy.
The university and the union are still far from an agreement to ending accommodation license agreements early. Our position is that there is no need for students who can complete their course and exams online to be living on campus and therefore should be given the opportunity to exit their accommodation contracts. The University, whilst sympathetic to our argument, feel strongly that they cannot allow that, whilst the government is giving Universities clear guidance that they should not be allowing the unnecessary movement of students. Both the Union and the University recognise that there are students who are as anxious to return to campus as much as there are those that want to leave.
The rent freeze period has been revised for a second time and will now continue until at least the 12th April for students not occupying their room. We have also asked the University to further investigate what they can do in the meantime for students on campus who do not benefit from a rent freeze and have little to no extra-curricular activity.
Some students are allowed to come back to campus, aslong as they are on specific courses with practical elements or they need to access specialist equipment - but we urge everyone to wait until you have been contacted by your department early next week to identify what will be available or provided and whether your course will fit the criteria to return to campus.
For students returning from abroad who will need to undertake two PCR Covid-19 tests upon arrival in the UK during their quarantine, the University has offered to pay for those tests and an application process will be shared with students very soon.
We also discussed provision for students whose academic performance falls well short this year of expectations due to COVID-19 pressures. We have asked the University to explore options of whether students in this group could retake the whole year again at a significant discount. The decision on whether a student should be offered to retake the year already is decided by the exam boards, and we hope to get a decision on whether a discount could apply long before the exam season starts.
We, and the University, are very determined to get students and staff back on campus as soon as safe and possible and we discussed options on whether there is any support for the University to organise a “Catch up period” through June on campus. This would essentially be a rent free period where students could remain on campus for free as restrictions lift and their accommodation period ends. Students could then enjoy a series of currently undetermined activities aimed at letting students catch up on missed opportunities from personal and career development activities, academic process upskilling and a range of sports and social activity spanning the month of June. We would love to know whether this would be something students would value and we will be polling soon so please look out for that on our social media and website after our current Spring Elections period ends next week.
We are sorry that we cannot provide any further information at the moment, but please rest assured that we will continue conversations and are relentless in our pursuit of fairness and justice for our members both on and off campus.
Vinny, SJ, Connie, Eshna & Pritesh