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Officer update - Weekly Meeting with Kelly Coate and Jayne Aldridge

Published on 29th October 2020 at 17:30.

Weekly Meeting with Kelly Coate and Jayne Aldridge - Thursday 29th October 2020

Today your full-time officer team met with Graeme Pedlingham, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Student Experience. Kelly Coate (Pro Vice-Chancellor of Education and Students) is off work and we express our best wishes to her; Jayne Aldridge (Director of Student Experience) was unable to attend the meeting. There were a number of issues on which we were seeking clarity and action, which we raised with Graeme as below. We asked for an email update about these issues, as we are concerned about the extent to which the University is engaging with student representation at the moment. Graeme agreed to get back to us tomorrow (Friday 30th October) to update where possible.

1. We have been approached by many students who are concerned that they can no longer call the Student Life Centre and instead have to fill out a form. Is this a temporary measure? If so, why has this happened and when can we expect to return to the normal system? 

  • Graeme did not have a definitive answer for this and is going to contact Therese (Campus Residential Support) and ask for an update tomorrow (Friday 30th October). 

2. We have had a number of enquiries about whether there is going to be some form of no-detriment policy this term (see the student petition). Many students have expressed that they feel significantly disadvantaged by the way teaching is currently being delivered. Is this something the university will consider? 

  • Currently the university is not planning for a ‘safety net’ but it is under review. Anything that will be put in place will not be the same as the no-detriment policy from last term. Graeme confirmed that guidance for Covid-related extenuating circumstances will be going up on the student hub imminently and students should see if these apply to their case. 

3. We continue to be asked about the capacity for the university to provide IT equipment for students. Does the university have plans to provide long-term loans of IT equipment for students? Can we get an update on this? It is something that many students have said would improve educational access.

  • Graeme said that the money designated for supporting students has tended to be directed towards cost of living support and not equipment. He suggested that students can come onto campus and use the facilities there, however this is not always possible with Covid restrictions in place. There is potential for students to be given extra time for assignments if they don’t have access to IT equipment. Graeme suggested that many people were looking at this issue and the university should look into the cost of running such a service. 

4. We have been contacted by several students in the School of Education and Social Work (ESW) who are concerned about the timing of their exam board. In previous years students have an exam board in June with an option to resit in September. However, this year many have been told to expect to only be able to attend the exam board in September, with no resit option. The School have asked for an interim exam board to be held in June or July and students have asked for an update. 

  • Graeme is aware that Social Work students are particularly concerned about this. He has spoken with the Head of the Department of Social Work and the School are exploring options around the exam board. Graeme has said that if there are barriers which are negatively impacting student experience, the School should contact him (as the Assessments Lead) - he has not heard from anyone yet, so he is assuming the School are dealing with it internally. We emphasised that students feel that this needs to be dealt with above a School level, as the School’s priorities do not seem to be aligning with students’. Graeme is concerned that there has been a miscommunication with students, and will contact Reima (the Director of Teaching and Learning in ESW). 

5. We have received a complaint about the treatment a student received from the dentist on campus - where should the student take this complaint? 

  • As the dentist is independent of the university, the complaint should go to them. Perhaps the student could CC Therese into any communication as it is something we should be aware of. Graeme will pass this onto Therese and follow up if it the provision needs to be looked at. 

6. We have been hearing from students that they are not able to get through to Student Accounts. The lines are currently only open 10 hours a week on two days, and emails are being left unanswered. It seems as though they need more resources. The services also need to be improved, particularly in terms of students missing an instalment fee due date. When this happens, the system automatically goes to the full amount when you miss an instalment payment, which makes it harder to pay.

  • Graeme thinks that positive changes could be made fairly easily. He is going to get in touch with Accounts about this. There may be confusion about where certain enquiries should go - queries around loans should be going to the Student Loan Company or the relevant Student Finance body. Graeme will discuss this with the Accounts team. 

7. We asked for an update about what is happening regarding funding for the Buddy Scheme and Race Equity Advocates (REA)

  • Graeme said that Jayne is taking the lead on this, but he is happy to discuss it. We explained that the delays around funding for the Buddy Scheme and how the University Executive Group (UEG) seems to imply that this funding is contingent on the relationship between the Students’ Union and UEG. However, we believe this funding should be for student activities that are proven to combat loneliness and racism at Sussex, and should not be linked to other issues. We remarked that students are suffering as a result of this delay, and that at times it seems like that delay is linked to members of UEG having taken personal offence. Graeme insisted that he is supportive of the REA scheme personally and is concerned about the budget for it. He has his own questions around this, but feels this conversation needs to happen with Saul, Kelly and Jayne - he plans to contact them about this and see if he can offer support to accelerate the issue (when Kelly returns). 

8. We continue to receive reports from students who are being prevented from registering on account of non-academic debts owed to the university. Can we agree on a course of action for this? 

  • Graeme suggested that disclaimer on the page should specify that if there is a flag on your account for non-academic debts, you can email Student Accounts for them to take it off. Graeme will contact the student systems to resolve this issue. 

See all our meeting updates