Here we go again… As lockdown number three comes into play across the UK, there has once again been mass disruption to education resulting in the suspension of face-to-face teaching at Royal Holloway until 22 February. We understand that students are undoubtedly upset, disheartened and looking for answers to a multitude of questions, but we ask that you try to be patient as you wait to receive updates on some of the more complex decisions that need to be made. With the Government announcement once again coming at the eleventh hour, the University has had very little time to adapt and respond to a set of hugely logistical challenges.
Despite the lockdown and suspension of education being vital for the reduction of the virus across the country, it clearly has knock-on implications for how the rest of the 2020/21 academic year will play out. The Sabbatical Officer team continue to be involved in discussions with the University's senior management team on a daily basis, as there are a lot of decisions that need to be made to best support students and ensure that you suffer no detriment to your degree outcomes despite the ongoing situation.
While there will be many more detailed updates to come over the course of the coming weeks, we want to make sure you are aware of some of the recent updates and discussions around key issues.
Of the many uncertainties that students are currently facing, one of the more immediate priorities is understandably around your University accommodation. An email was sent earlier today from the University to all students living in University accommodation. This email outlined that the University will not be charging rent to those students who are not living in their University accommodation for the period of the Government lockdown. The University have added an FAQs page in the 2020/21 Information Hub which will hopefully answer a lot of your questions - please do read this and then get in touch with the University with any further questions. The form to apply for the rent removal will be sent to you and will also be available here from next week.
In regards to private housing, this is a more complex issue and one that is outside of the University’s control. Paul Layzell and I have sent a joint letter to local landlords and private halls to ask for flexibility during this difficult period for students. For any students in need of advice, please take a look at our Coronavirus Housing Advice or contact our Advice Centre at email@example.com who will be able to support you further. If you are facing financial difficulties as a result of the loss of part-time work or other changes of circumstance, please do contact the University’s Financial Wellbeing team regarding the Study Support Grant.
It is clear that there has been significant disruption to education this academic year, which has led to students not being fully supported. It is also apparent to us that the effect of this disruption has been, and will continue to be, disparate. Some students have found the situation easier to manage, whereas others have suffered much more intensely, including the mental health impacts of such continued disruption.
We are in discussions with the University around the implementation of a policy for the 2020/21 academic year which would ensure that students are not disadvantaged due to the current situation. Further updates will be provided by the University as soon as possible, but it should be acknowledged that it does take time for complex issues such as this to be outlined in sufficient detail.
It is our view, as a Sabbatical Officer group, that we are in a similar, but slightly different situation to that which we found ourselves in last March. Online teaching provision may have progressed a long way, but students are still in need of reassurance as we continue into Term 2 and 3. As the situation is slightly different, particularly in regards to the timing of this lockdown and the impact of the pandemic on the entire academic year, we feel the implementation of the same policy as last year may not make sense or work in the right way for students. In particular, a Safety Net policy, which relies on a block of work having already been achieved in normal circumstances, may not achieve the support and results that students are looking for, due to the impact of the pandemic already felt in Term 1. It is our belief that a new policy, which combines elements of the emergency regulations from last year alongside new support mechanisms, would best support students this time around.
There are, of course, numerous considerations to be taken into account, as this is a very complex issue, including the implementation of a policy for PGT and PGR students as well as those students just starting a degree in January 2021.
We have already written to the University to outline our collective views on this and we have been involved in early thinking but there will be more detailed discussions to come over the next few weeks to help take this forward. An update will be provided at the end of January and we will keep you up-to-date on these discussions as they progress.
As always, if you have any questions or would like to discuss anything further please do get in contact with any of us via our email or social media accounts.
Kate Roberts - firstname.lastname@example.org // @RHSUPresident
Alissa Chohan - email@example.com // @RHSUEducation
Henn Warwick - firstname.lastname@example.org // @RHSUWellbeing
Lucy Brown - email@example.com / @RHSUSocSport
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