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Weekly report from the Student Voice team


Published on 7th October 2020 at 14:33.

Your weekly update from our Student Voice team, looking at the issues affecting students across the UK Higher Education sector.

Black History Month 

With 1 October marking the beginning of Black History Month, GuildHE has launched a collaborative Anti-Racism Programme. The goal of the project is to support a more conscious and impactful approach to improving equality in Higher Education (HE) and provide resources for individuals across institutions.

Stage one of the programme will run this year, supporting those in HE to develop their own Anti-Racism strategy, provide education opportunities on what barriers need to be overcome, and inspire all staff and students to be Anti-Racism champions. 

Covid and student renters 

Renting pressure is a source of stress and anxiety for students, and these pressures have been exacerbated by the Coronavirus crisis. The National Union of Students (NUS) Students and Coronavirus Survey (April 2020) found that 80% of students are worried about their ability to pay rent during the pandemic.

While universities and some private providers, including Sussex, have let some students out of their contracts early, this is not the case for most of the 500,000 students who are living within the private rented sector.

The NUS has published a statement pressuring the government to step in and offer a hardship fund for those students who have been financially impacted and need help. 

On 1 October, the NUS hosted a training event where students learned how to safely and effectively organise a rent strike. The event was attended by our Renters' Union

WONKHE Updates 

This week, Wonkhe has been continuing to focus on campus lockdowns and how to best support students living within Covid restrictions. Commenting on a SAGE report, Wonkhe has endorsed the recommendation that universities should be encouraging students to wear masks when in their residence halls.

There is strong evidence that face masks significantly reduce the spread of Covid by protecting others as well as the wearer. Universities’ reopening plans were based around the concept of a household unit: A group of students that could socialise together indoors, without needing to social distance and wear a mask.

The issue universities are now experiencing is that these bubbles are merging into unmanageable large ‘blobs’, as students move into residence halls with sometimes up to 12 people sharing a kitchen.

Wonkhe is recommending that universities should move away from the household concept, and promoted the message that wearing masks when talking with others indoors is always a helpful precaution. 

Wonkhe has published a report analysing the current financial pressures felt within UK Higher Education. Due to a lack of funds as a result of Covid, many English universities are now looking at what insolvency would mean.

The idea of a university closing on financial groups has never been recommended before, but is plausible. The report suggests that the government should bring in structures that could manage such a process easily and protect students.