The COVID-19 pandemic has caused interruption, problems, and distress for students throughout 2020 and 2021.
The Government has almost exclusively ignored us, and despite the hard work of staff and lecturers, higher education is struggling to offer the experience students were both promised and so deserve.
As your Students’ Union, we understand what you are going through. We are here to support you, and your elected representatives are here to make sure your voice is heard. Students deserve better. That’s why we are fighting for fair treatment for you in all areas of your student experience.
National Campaigning and Lobbying
On a national level, we are pressuring the Government to urgently address the devastating impact of COVID and continued lockdowns and restrictions on university students. Your President, Conor Naughton, has written a joint letter with thirty other Students’ Union Presidents to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, and Michelle Donegan, Minister of State for Universities urging them to:
Take university students’ struggles seriously
Implement universal academic protections
Subsidise rent for those not able to return to their accommodation
Give students the digital provision they need to learn
In October and December your President, Conor, and VP Opportunities, Cameron, attended two emergency All-party Parliamentary Group meetings for students where they raised student issues on tuition fees, access to necessary digital equipment for online learning, and improved mental health support for students up and down the UK.
In January 2021, Conor was a panel member on a live event with Nadia Whitmore, Member of Parliament for Nottingham East, discussing lockdowns and university.
Success so far
We set out plans to support students’ education, working with NTU to ensure all schools increase opportunities for students to speak directly to senior academic staff.
We have been successful in achieving this, with NTU schools now holding regular Q&As for students to ask important questions. These Q&As also feature NTSU School Officers who hold staff to account.
NTU will be refunding rent in UPP and University-owned halls for students who have not lived there between 4th Jan - 17th May. This will save £1,000s for students and comes after your NTSU Exec Team lobbied the University to provide rent waivers.
We are pleased that the University agreed with us that all students required the option to receive extensions on all assessments and deadlines if they felt affected by COVID.
NTSU’s Information and Advice Manager who deals with helping students with extensions on work every year had this to say: This change in the NEC policy is really going to benefit those students who need and want an extension/deferment of their work but are unable to obtain the necessary supporting evidence due to COVID-19 restrictions. Without this change, these students may have felt that they had no choice but to submit work which does not reflect their true potential and/or fail to submit work at all which could have a negative impact on their degree classification. The change also takes away the stress and anxiety students face when having to rely on a third party to provide evidence in time for their NEC to be actioned.
Your President Conor has secured the continuation of free on-campus parking for students at Clifton and Brack for the whole of term two and three. Those with pre-paid permits will be refunded for the term, saving students over £60,000 in parking fees across all three terms.
Our Information & Advice Service has provided guidance on housing, academic issues, mental health and financial hardship over 6,000 times in 2020/21 along with guidance and support for many more.
Restrictions have caused untold hardships and difficulties for our members in engaging with their learning. We have fed this back to the University and have been successful in influencing alternative course delivery, provision of additional support, and new study spaces including in our own buildings, additional study space, and more bookable library slots.
Your Exec Team has organised multiple online student Q&As which give students the opportunity to ask questions to senior members of staff at NTU. We are in the process of organising another Q&A for term three so make sure you’re following us on social media for updates. In the meantime, you can watch the Q&A on Education here.
Restrictions have caused untold hardships and difficulties for our members to engage with their learning. We have raised this with the University and have been successful in influencing alternative course delivery, provision of additional support, new study spaces, increased opening hours, improved printing options, and more bookable library slots.
What we are working on
At NTSU, we believe international students able to return to the UK for their courses shouldn't be financially burdened by having to pay nearly £2000 for a quarantine hotel and tests on top of their existing tuition, travel and living costs.
We have urged NTU to ensure these fees are covered and they are working with other universities and the government to find a solution. International/EU students who need financial support may be able to access the NTU International / EU Hardship Fund (COVID-19).
We also understand that international students are likely to be nervous about what University life is going to look like this year. You can find NTU’s current information for International students here and contact our Information and Advice Service for any support you might need here on our website.
Despite universities working tirelessly to provide quality education online, students are paying for access to education and, in most cases, university campuses which are not comparable with that of previous years.
Despite paying the same tuition fees, either up front or through student debt, many students have been left out of the financial safety nets provided for the rest of the country. they are unable to access employment or waiver fees for accommodation that they are contractually bound to pay for.
With this in mind, many students have called for tuition fee refunds. This may be an appropriate solution for some students but we know this won’t benefit many due to the way student debt is funded and repaid. This would also disproportionally not support students from widening participation backgrounds. If this support were to come from universities themselves, it would also further damage the Higher Education sector.
We are working with other Students’ Unions around the country, and with the National Union of Students, to lobby the government to properly support students. This should include:
A solution on fees that financially compensates students for lost access to learning and doesn’t leave behind those most in need in our communities
Action on the long-term interest rate for student debt covering all students impacted by the pandemic
Maintenance grants to put money in the pockets of students who need it most
A COVID learning fund to help students make up for lost access, skills, and experiences
Ensuring an extension of UKRI funding for postgraduate students so they can complete their studies. This should include support for those who are self-funded.
As an Exec team we have written to over 60 private accommodation providers lobbying them to follow the footsteps of NTU’s accommodation providers and provide a refund or waiver on rent for those students who are not staying in their accommodation during the national lockdown. To see an up-to-date list of providers we have contacted so far click here.
If you can’t see your accommodation provider on the list, get in touch and let us know who/what company it is. We will then write to them.
We encourage you to contact your accommodation provider using our provided template below. Instructions on how to edit the letter can be found in the document. Any concerns, please get in contact with our Information and Advice Service for further support.
The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on students’ learning and assessments and the new lockdown has exacerbated this further. We have secured an updated NEC (notice of exceptional circumstances) policy that gives all students the opportunity to apply for extensions on assessments in a more accessible way.
We support our students and their need for more safeguards in their academic studies and are using student feedback from our #TellTrent survey, focus groups, rep assemblies, and conversations with students to inform the objectives we are continuing to lobby NTU for.
We are currently working towards:
The implementation of safeguards that fairly protect all students’ grades against the detrimental impact of the pandemic
In the event that only a limited number of students are able to return to campus for much of the academic year, ensuring assessments are reviewed to mitigate the negative impact this would cause
Enabling students to submit a statement about the impact of the pandemic on their work at the point of submission and ensure this feedback links them into appropriate support and policies for marking
Making students more aware of their options and the implications of deferring their exam before the end of the exam or submission deadline
Reintroducing the 2019/20 exceptional re-sit policy to allow students to re-sit exams without a cap on their grade
Suitable and fair adjustment to assessments for all students whose studies require practical elements (e.g. lab based data collection, physical work)
In the event of easing of coronavirus restrictions, ensuring a swift return to COVID-secure face-to-face teaching for students who are able to access it.
As a Students’ Union, we have continued to deliver virtual and in-person Union and society activities to build communities and offer vital mental health support.
We are running a number of ongoing welfare-related campaigns from LGBTQ+ History month to Sexual Violence Awareness Week and Stamp Out Stress.
Our Information and Advice Service (IAS) has supported students over 7,000 times on mental health, academic, housing and wellbeing issues
Our Mental Health Champions have been running regular peer to peer support sessions in partnership with NTU, giving students the chance to talk about issues they might be facing.
We continue to work with NTU to ensure they are providing support for all students on welfare and wellbeing
We've introduced Postgraduate Support Sessions designed to help us better understand the needs of postgraduate students and give them the opportunity to connect during lockdown
We are running a number of ongoing welfare-related campaigns including LGBTQ+ History Month and Sexual Violence Awareness Week.
Get involved and help us help you
We need your help. We continue to lobby the University, Government and local representatives on the above points and other support for you. Below is what you can do to make your voice heard on these issues.
On 6th May there are elections for Nottinghamshire’s Police and County Crime Commissioner (PCC). They are your representative in the police force and are there to hold the police to account on your behalf.
It is important you use your vote to let those in power know they have a duty to represent, support and police students in a fair and proportionate manner as equal members of the local community.
The deadline to register to vote is 11:59pm on 19th April. Regardless of whether or not you’re planning on voting, it’s important to register to vote as it is a legal requirement and can harm your credit score if you don’t. It’s quick and easy to do via www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.
In term two your Students’ Union President organised a live student Q&A event with senior University staff to give you the chance to ask your questions on everything related to your student experience including mental health, libraries, finance, and much more.
Another Q&A will be taking place later in term three to allow you to ask any important questions you might have. More information will be shared on our social media channels so make sure you’re following us for updates,
There may be occasions where, due to the nature of courses and the restrictions in place, a student’s education is severely impacted. Universities will look at these situations on a case-by-case basis.
If you are in a position where you feel the standard of your education is not being upheld, you should talk to your course leader about your concerns. You may also like to contact your course representative if it is a course-wide issue. If they are not able to rectify your concerns you can use the NTU complaints process detailed here.
Give prospective and current students clear information about what they can expect from their course in the next academic year. This includes the extent to which initial teaching will be online, how this will happen and what support there will be for online learning.
Keep students updated on how teaching might be delivered in different scenarios as public health advice changes.
Make sure that their terms and conditions are fair and transparent.
Make sure students can access complaints processes that are accessible, clear and fair.
Thank you to everyone who submitted feedback for our #TellTrent survey. It was open to all students at Trent and focused on how NTU has been assessing you so far this academic year, what they currently have in place going forward, access to facilities, resources, and more.
We received a huge volume of entries and are now collating the findings to form an anonymised report that will be used to help us give feedback about your experience to the University and make sure action is taken to improve your academic experience.
Use the link to find and write a letter to your local MP telling them how COVID-19 and your experience this year has impacted your finances, wellbeing, academic experience, and any other issues you feel are important. You can also write to specific Ministers of State with remits for Education and/or Universities.
Thank you to everyone who submitted feedback for our #TellTrent survey. It was open to all students at Trent and focused on how NTU have been assessing you so far this academic year, what they currently have in place going forward and also questions on access to facilities, resources and more.
We received a huge volume of entries and are now collating the findings to form an anonymised report which will be used to help us give feedback about your experience to the University and make sure action is taken to improve your academic experience.
Thank you to every NTU student who submitted to the All-party Parliamentary Group meetings for students. This was a cross-party group of MPs and Peers who conducted an inquiry to investigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on students’ tuition and accommodation, and the case for compensation.
The findings and report have now been published and can be viewed here. The APPG have called on Universities minster Michelle Donegan to act on the recommendations of the report to provide significantly greater protection for students on academic, housing and welfare.