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CCSU Statement on Lockdown 3 Academic Provision

11th January 2021

Since the very first lockdown in March 2020, your Students’ Union has been working in close partnership with senior members of the University to ensure that your academic experience is the best it can be under extremely challenging circumstances.  We continue to raise issues students bring to us every day, challenging the University when it needs to be challenged and ensuring that the student voice is front and centre in any decision that is made.  

Here is what we have been working on since the third lockdown was announced on 4th January, and what we are continuing to push for.  Please continue to get in touch with us about how the lockdown is affecting you.  We are only as strong as our members and can only work with the information you provide us with.

  • Digital poverty: we know that studying from home is extremely difficult without the right equipment, software, or a good Wi-Fi connection.  We have lobbied the University to introduce and scale up a long-term laptop loan scheme, as well as making hardship funds easier to access.  The University has also invested time and money into a student app store, allowing you to access a range of specialist educational software without the need for expensive equipment.

  • Assessments: we successfully lobbied the University to introduce a ‘no detriment’ policy for all students in Semester 2 of 2019/20.  We are continuing to push for an assessment policy that recognises the extraordinary circumstances under which students are learning this year, and ensures that all students’ academic outcomes are protected  We have also worked to make extenuating circumstances easier to access: all coursework now has an automatic 48 hour “grace period” to give you extra time to complete and submit; and you can request up to two weeks’ additional time with no need to submit evidence if your reasons relate to yours or your family’s health, caring responsibilities, or being a key worker.  Longer extensions are also available through Temporary Learning Agreements, which you can discuss with your Programme Director.

  • Communications: we are continually pushing the University to communicate information to students in a timely manner: we recognise that government guidance changes frequently and staff need time to plan their response, but we continue to emphasise the importance of letting students know what is happening.

  • Wellbeing: we know that the pandemic has made student wellbeing even more important than in previous years, and continue to lobby the University to increase resources for student support.  We worked with several University departments to deliver wellbeing boxes to self-isolating students before Christmas, and supported an initiative to contact self-isolating students via telephone.  In the context of a new lockdown, more needs to be done and we are pushing for extended hours for wellbeing support, as well as increased investment to bring down waiting times and easier access to all integral University services.

  • Rent rebates: we successfully lobbied the University to refund students who didn’t return to their University accommodation after the March 2020 lockdown and in January 2021, and have been working to ensure that students who are not permitted to return to University accommodation will not be charged for the time you’re not living there.  We have previously written, with Kent Union, to local private landlords asking them to allow students to break their contracts where they will not be occupying the property, and are continuing this campaign in the third lockdown by writing an open letter to the VC and MPs for Canterbury and Medway on the issue.

  • Registration and timetabling: we pushed the University hard to make sure that students starting in January did not experience the issues that happened in September, becoming an essential part of every strategic conversation, ensuring that timetables were released before Christmas for the new semester.  We are continuing to raise issues around the accuracy of student timetables and ensure all students are clear on where and when their teaching will take place, and are lobbying to receive timetables at least one month in advance.

  • Tuition fees: we recognise that your university experience has been disrupted this year, and that many of you are calling for tuition fee refunds.  We are working with the National Union of Students to call for the government to reduce the loan burden on students this year, and lobbying the University Senior Management and the Canterbury and Medway Members of Parliament to put pressure on the government to reduce the cost to students and fund universities properly.  As a Union, we are committed to championing your voices at both a local and national level: in order to achieve this, we need your support.  To get involved with the national campaign you can pledge your support to the NUS campaign here. If you would like to support our open letters to the Vice Chancellor and the Canterbury and Medway MPs, you can do so here. We truly empathise with your frustrations and together we can achieve your aims at a national level. 

  • Placements: we have continually pushed for clear communication around placements as government guidance changed again and again with little or no notice.  We know there are some students who haven’t been able to complete their required placement hours, and we continue to push the University to develop a clear plan, in discussion with the relevant professional bodies, for these students to enable them to meet professional requirements and complete their degree.

We know how difficult this academic year has been for you, and we will continue to ensure that your concerns are considered by the University in every decision that they make.  We exist to represent you, and to ensure that you have the best possible holistic student experience. 

We want, and you need, your Union to engage in a meaningful dialogue with all our student members, so we can effectively represent you at every level as we work for you.

Christ Church Students’ Union’s Sabbatical Leadership Team

 

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