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Update from Officer meeting with University management, Thursday 7 January


Published on 8th January 2021 at 14:32.

Your Officers met with University management on Thursday and discussed the following:

No Detriment

Students received an email from Vice-Chancellor, Adam Tickell saying that a No Detriment policy would be put in place for them this academic year, in light of the effects of the pandemic. Officers spoke to Jayne Aldridge and Graeme Pedlingham about this. A policy is in development, but needs altering from last year on the grounds that some students will not have prior grades. Also, as Sussex is one of the first universities in the country to announce this, the University recognises the need to maintain and assure quality standards and is working on a policy that ensures standards are in line with other universities and with employer expectations.  One of the principles in terms of quality standards which will continue is that students will have to have passed all their modules for it to kick in. Obviously there is some flex in that (for example, you will only need to meet the minimum pass mark, resits will count, and ECs will still taken into consideration).

Senior management met with the education leads in the schools (7th Jan) about this and a timeline will be released detailing the next steps. This will need to go through various formal and informal bodies to be passed, including consultation with the Students' Union and approval from Senate and Council. This needs to be done in the next 4 weeks. Meanwhile we at the SU really want to hear from you about your experiences around assessments and exceptional circumstances, so please do fill in our survey so we can represent your experiences at these meetings: http://bit.ly/assessmentsandecs

Consistency in online teaching

The officers raised the importance of maintaining quality of education and academic support across all schools, and to be consistent to ensure all students will have the same accessibility regardless of school / module / individual need. Jayne and Graeme said that baseline guidance on online teaching will be going out to all schools, and they will send this to us for feedback.

Assessments

The officers brought up the timing of the A1 assessments, in light of students saying that they found it hard to have deadlines in the last week of the first term and in the first week back, given that tutors and support staff were on holiday at this time and not answering emails (understandably). Officers suggested ensuring that assessments started a few days into the first week back, at least, or the following week, so there were at least 3-5 working days for University staff to process emails from students and EC claims (among other things). Jayne and Graeme said they also felt that the timing of the December assessments needed reconsidering: a curriculum review will be taking pace in February where this will be discussed. They hope to implement some of the actions within this academic year but not all will be possible. The Students' Union will be involved in this review.

Student Parents and lockdown

A number of student parents have been in touch with the officers in some distress over the effect that the new lockdown will have on their capacity to finish assessments on time given that schools have closed and their timetables have changed last minute, which affects childcare. The University responded that student parents can self-declare for this under the exceptional circumstances (EC) process for a 7-day extension if they are able to get the work in, or alternatively they can claim for impairment if they felt the quality of work was impacted. However, if it's not possible to get the work in, as many will still have childcare responsibilities 7 days later, they can get an uncapped sit in the A3 resit period (August) which is treated as a first attempt. Officers will continue to liaise with senior management on this issue.

Exceptional circumstances

There has been an increase in the number of claims made this assessment period, resulting in delays and uncertainty if students’ claims will be accepted, often until after their assessments are due, which puts them in a difficult position around incentives to try and work despite going through difficult things like hospital admission for chronic illness or symptomatic Covid. Jayne and Graeme agreed with this and are trying to change various things about the EC process, including how many assessments are covered by a claim and the 4-claim limit. This will also be part of the curriculum review that will be taking place.

Rent strike

Officers mentioned the growing rent strike organised by the Sussex Renters Union, who are currently demanding a 40% rent reduction for the academic year for all students (among other demands). The University's position has not changed on this as yet.

Rent reduction

Some students were sent an email saying that they may be eligible for a rent reduction (or 'rebate') if they are up to date with their rent payments and they are not in their accommodation due to the lockdown. Officers asked about the mechanism for this, but Jayne and Graeme said that it is early days and they are currently working out how to do this. No update yet.

Trans and non-binary students and email structure 

The officers raised an issue whereby deadnames were still appearing in some university email addresses, unless they are changed right at the start of term. The officers will get more information and raise this with ITS, Jayne Aldridge said she would follow up on this.