An update from your President

Hey all! It's your 2019/2020 Students' Union President Oge here.

On behalf of the Executive Officer Team, we hope you're keeping well and that everyone is staying safe in the current circumstances.

We wanted to keep you in the loop on what your Students’ Union Executive Officers have been doing for you regarding our key Covid-19 priorities, to ensure you are supported as much as possible.

During the last month or so, we have had a number of discussions digitally with University senior managers to ensure we’re working together to address the most important issues facing students right now. We’ve also been working with NUS and feeding in to the development of their recently launched national campaign. 

This blog post covers the following subjects:

Tuition Fee Compensation, Accommodation, Exams, the Safety Net Policy, Year Abroad Students, PhD Students, Mitigating Circumstances, Support, Things to do, Careers and the Professional Mentoring Programme.

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns - we're here to help.

Tuition Fee Compensation

The Union has been putting forward the argument that teaching has changed and students are not getting same education that they signed up for in September 2019, so we have been pushing the University for a fee reimbursement. However, this is difficult as the Government are yet to provide any new financial support for Universities to replace fees.

Students who want to make a formal complaint to the University about the impact of the Covid-19 disruption to their learning can now do so.

We've also created an email template for you to send to the Vice-Chancellor so that you can explain how this pandemic has affected your University experience.

A national petition to lobby the Government to better support students has been created, and has over 330,000 signatures.

Finally, we have contributed to the national NUS campaign called the Student Safety Net. The campaign's objective is to create a hardship fund - accessible to all students in the UK, and a grant for people who complete their education this year. It also wants to give students the opportunity to redo the academic year, reimburse the monies paid, or write-off the debt accrued.

 

Exams & Assessment Period

Schools/departments should have communicated with you to let you know what type of assessment you will be asked to undertake, as well as to let you know when this will be.

If this is an exam, this should be an open book - with the opportunity to take this over at least a 24-hour period. 

If they haven’t been in touch yet please let us know by emailing your Executive Officer Team.

 

How can students raise concerns about their exams/assessments?

Your first port of call is the School, as they should be sending communications regarding exams.

If they aren’t responding to your emails, please email the dedicated University help address, and they will chase the School for you.

Alternatively, email us and we will raise the matter of communication with senior managers. 

 

Safety Net Policy - Benchmarks

Following lengthy discussions, the University have brought in a ‘Safety Net’ policy that means they assess your performance to date (your benchmark).

Any assessments/exams taken in the coming weeks can only improve your overall average but you are still required to pass the assignments/exams that you are required to take. 

The University has been working with us on establishing benchmarks for each course (with the exception of some courses where external professional accreditation requirements apply), to ensure the fairest methodology is used. Communications about this have been issued on Wednesday 6 May, so please check your University emails. 

The Safety Net will be applied automatically after all semester two assessments have been marked in July.

At the start of the term Pro Vice Chancellor for Education, Graham Wynn, prepared a short clip, explaining how benchmarks are established and what the Safety Net policies look like.

If your school hasn’t communicated how their Safety Net will be applied, let us know.

 

Year Abroad Students

For students on a compulsory year abroad placement, such as Modern Languages, the Safety Net Policy will apply to you.

If you are on an optional placement based abroad then the University have been looking at these concerns in more detail. 

 

Mitigating Circumstances

The University are removing the need for students to have to get a medical certificate for mitigating circumstances, and are asking students to submit a self-certified claim via MyStudentRecord. If you are unable to undertake assessments, you may be required to take alternative assessments at a later date.

If you are experiencing mitigating circumstances that are not health-related, you should also submit these via MyStudentRecord and your school will contact you if any further evidence is required. 

The University have assured us that any students unable to access IT facilities remotely will be supported where possible to study and take assessments through other mechanisms.

If you wish to defer assessments, you can make a request to do so for the August re-assessment period or you can request to defer them to the next academic year.

Please note the deadline for informing the University about this is Friday 8 May.

 

PhD Students

We are working with the University to ensure research councils are supporting PhD students at this time, with any potential funding or other support needs.

If you have a specific case you would like us to look into, tell us what we need to do to support you.

 

Accommodation

Students in University halls should all have been given the option to be released early from their room for the rest of this academic year. In addition, the Union and University have co-signed a letter to all landlords, agencies and private halls in the city; asking them to review the rents they are charging in term three and whether they can release students early from their contract. 

You can download our letter and tailor it to send to your landlord.

If your landlord won’t release you from your contract, push back and see if you are able to at least get a discount on your utility charges if you’re not living in the house. We have written a letter template for this.

 

Future Classes/Teaching

Nobody knows what the future holds at this stage and whether restrictions on social distancing will have been lifted by September.

We are working closely with the University on how teaching could be delivered through a mix of digital and/or physical seminars and lectures, to make sure solid plans are in place for all students next year. 

We would welcome your feedback on any barriers you have encountered with your online learning, as we recognise each individual student’s experience is unique. What has worked for you? What would need to change next year? Let us know your thoughts on this.

 

Support

The Counselling and Wellbeing Service is still fully operational and available online.

The Students' Union Advice Service is also fully operational and available online.

The University’s Standing Together team are still dealing with student cases and there is continued access to the Report & Support system, which allows you to raise concerns and issues relating to harassment and/or bullying.

The University’s Welfare Team are still able to give an amount of money from the hardship fund to students, and we are working with the University to make this more accessible to those who have lost their jobs and/or are struggling in other ways due to this crisis, whether this is through increased care responsibilities, or even falling ill yourself.

If you are in need of emergency financial support during these times, please contact welfare@le.ac.uk.

 

Online De-Stress 

We fully appreciate that with the current climate, it is an extremely stressful period for students. We also understand that you may be feeling more stressed than usual, especially with summer exams looming so we have put together a month of online activities to keep you as calm as possible.

You can find the full jam-packed Online De-Stress programme running until Friday 22 May on our website, including live yoga sessions, giveaways, study tips, mindfulness activities and ways to practice self-care from home. 

 

Leics Quarantine & Chill: The Podcast

How many times during this lockdown period have you heard the words: "we're starting a podcast!", well, we're no different. We've started a podcast.

Leics Quarantine & Chill: The Podcast tackles the many wellbeing issues and topics that have unexpectedly entered our lives.

Featuring everything from mental health, exercise and missing friends, to moving back in with your parents, and working from home.

We have new episodes being uploaded twice weekly, usually on Wednesdays and Fridays.

You can listen to the full series on Spotify and we're also now on TuneIn.

 

Online Community

If you have not done so already, please feel free to get involved with our 'Leics Quarantine & Chill' Facebook community - it's a great place to share content you're finding enjoyable during this lockdown period.

Don't forget to connect with our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you can stay regularly updated, you can also ask us any questions via direct messages.

Our Officers undertake weekly Q&A sessions on Tuesdays, and our Advice Service are live on Facebook Chat on Monday to Fridays between 1-3pm.

 

Careers

If you're a final year, you'll be pleased to know that we've teamed up with the Careers Development Service to bring you some live workshops on employability skills, including interview skills, CV tips, finding graduate jobs and coping with rejection. They'll be going live at the end of May.

In addition to this, the service has now opened up their Professional Mentoring Programme to all final year students. With this service, you can get one-to-one support from an assigned mentor already working within the industry you are looking to go in to. 

This programme was usually only open to students with the 'Leicester Gold Award' however, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been opened up to everybody. It's a really helpful service and you can get career development tips, skills advice and coaching on how to get in to and progress in your chosen industry from someone who has already done it.

To sign up, all you need to do is email molly.juckes@leicester.ac.uk.

 

That's about it from us, but if you think we've not covered anything, or you have any questions - please contact us.

Stay safe, and please continue to follow the Government's guidance.