It is clear there has been disruption to education this academic year, which has led to students not receiving the usual Harper experience. We understand that some of you have found the situation easier to manage, whereas others have suffered much more intensely.
On Thursday 14th January, we, your student representatives met with members of HAU senior management and raised the six questions we published on our social media channels last week.
We asked the University where they stand regarding a safety net or no detriment policy in addition to the COVID Academic Assistance Package. The University explained how they are working with the sector’s Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and other external bodies to maintain standards and ensure core competencies continue to be met.
Throughout the year we have been working in partnership with the University to ensure no student is adversely affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week we held further discussions regarding support and arrangements which included; mitigating circumstances, hand-in arrangements for assignments and assessment regulations.
We know that each university is different and Harper Adams is no exception. For example we do not operate a semester system, and the majority of our courses are professionally accredited which prevents us from implementing a typical no detriment policy.
For this reason we have summarised with the University our own bespoke COVID Academic Assistance Package. This is in response to calls from our members about a safety net or no detriment policies.
We are grateful to the University for listening to the student voice and we have worked together in designing and reviewing this bespoke COVID Academic Assistance Package. Shortly you shall receive an email explaining the package from the SU and the University.
Accommodation - Last week the accommodation office sent an email to all students living in University accommodation signed jointly with the SU President. This email outlined that the University will not be charging rent to those students who are not living in their University accommodation for the period of the Government lockdown. Please make sure you have read this letter and get in touch with the University with any further questions.
In regards to private housing, this is a more complex issue and one that is outside of the University’s control. The University has sent a letter to local landlords to ask for flexibility during this difficult period for students. For any students in need of advice, please contact student services who will be able to provide further support.
Tuition Fees - We wholeheartedly sympathise with every one of our students at Harper who is studying during this pandemic. This week we have been speaking with other Students’ Unions across the country regarding tuition fee refunds. In our meeting last week the University has made it clear that they will not be engaging in the national campaign as they are continuing to provide teaching and hope that we will be able to return to face to face teaching for students as soon as possible. However they have continued to highlight the impact of the national lockdown on students with the Department for Education and Ministers.
Harper Adams University is a member of GuildHE which is lobbying government on behalf of students and the university. We fully support them in asking government for more direct financial support for individual students in terms of their living experiences and additional funding for universities to support the mental health and wellbeing of their students during COVID-19.
We are working with other Students’ Unions from GuildHE institutions and we have jointly signed an open letter. Whilst we have signed it because we agree to its broad principles, we recognise that not all of the points in this letter apply to Harper Adams, in particular point three. We are lobbying GuildHE to advocate on our collective behalf to agree and promote the following points to government. The wording below is extract from the collective letter and has not been prepared by Harper Adams SU;
- The institutions have spent millions on implementing covid safe signage, sanitisers, air conditioning, one-way systems, extra cleaning crews and so on, to ensure that students feel safe and are protected whilst using the facilities on campus.
- The practical based degrees our students have signed up for and agreed to when deciding to pay their fees/ take out their loans, means that as consumers they have “consumer rights”. They have the right from the government to be helped when treated unfairly by poor service, and not keeping to contracts.
- A majority of students within the Guild membership felt they did not get a sufficient “quality of education” last term. The disparity of justifying blended learning as a good quality substitute is not right. Many students feel underprepared for graduation or going into their next year as they have not made high quality portfolio pieces or learnt how to use the equipment properly.
- The impact of this year on our students’ mental wellbeing and financial wellbeing has rocketed. We understand the government gave the universities a grant to help this, but it doesn’t quite cover effects that can’t be bought. How can we expect first-year course communities who have never met before, to not feel anxious turning on their camera in a room full of strangers? How can we expect international students to feel equal when they have to cope with time zones?
Taking into consideration all the above points, we are asking that Guild HE as our representative help us to be a bigger voice and advocate for the UK government to give justified and equal treatment to all small and specialist institutions.
Please check your email for the latest information on the COVID Academic Assistance Package, and we will share GuildHE’s response with you when we receive it.
Thomas Oatey (SU President)
Lauren France (SU Vice President)