Update following the government's announcement that remaining students can return to campus from step 3 of the roadmap Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, VP Higher Education said;
“We are pleased that the government has finally remembered that students exist and started to fill the information vacuum of its own making. Our priority has always been that students and staff go back to a safe campus, and this be led by scientific advice, but the silence has been galling.
While incredibly late in the day today’s announcement will at least allow students to make necessary arrangements to access their learning and accommodation. However, after almost a year’s worth of disruption, there is still much to be done to ensure students receive adequate support to succeed in the time that is left of this academic year. We hear from students at risk of not progressing due to missing out on the practical elements of their course or their placements, of those whose mental health has significantly deteriorated as a result of constant upheaval, and we know that almost a quarter are financially on the brink as a result of paying out rent for accommodation they the government then told them not to live in. We need assurances that the Minister will work with universities, professional bodies, and intervene in the predatory practices of landlords and accommodation providers to provide some urgently needed relief for students.
We welcome a further £15 million unlocked for student hardship but the student finance system is fundamentally broken. With students struggling to afford rent, food and basic necessities – and with these problem existing long before the pandemic - we cannot keep adding sticking plasters every few months. We need non-repayable maintenance grants back on the table, at the level of student living income, to stop students from being priced out of education.
Students have missed out not just on huge swathes of education and hands-on experience this year, but on experiencing campus life. Having experienced so much injustice, students deserve better than being disregarded by the government time and time again.”
On the 12th of April, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, VP Higher Education said;
“Students need clarity about when they can expect to be back on campus, to allow them to make necessary arrangements for their learning and accommodation. Students deserve better to be ignored, yet again, by this government.
We believe that students should be back on campus when it is safe to do so and would like this to be grounded in scientific advice. Students have missed out not just on huge swathes of education and hands-on experience this year, but on huge parts of campus life, on top of now learning from cramped homes and bedrooms.
By the Prime Minister’s own admission education is a priority - with so many other sectors having been given clarity by now, it is unforgivable that higher education continues to be left in the dark about plans for the new term. This is needlessly causing distress, with students consistently treated as low priority leaving them vulnerable and deepening the mental health crisis. We understand a return to campuses may need to be done cautiously, but this is no excuse for ignoring the matter entirely. Where restrictions remain it is vital that access is prioritised for those who need it most, whether this is because their course cannot be delivered remotely or because their learning and living environment is unsuitable.