Newsletter (30/03/2020)

The email below was sent to students on 30 March 2020.

Hello,

Over the last ten days, student officers and Students’ Union staff have been working hard with the University to agree solutions for the challenges presented by COVID-19/coronavirus. As you can imagine, this is a very complex and time-consuming task. We thank you for your patience while we push for solutions which work for our students.

New assessment framework
A week ago, the University outlined to the Students’ Union its proposed new framework for assessment. SU staff with expertise in this area have studied the proposals in detail to understand the possible implications for students. We have used this to inform our discussions with the University. We secured several important changes to the original proposal which we believe improves it for students, including an extension for all assessment deadlines to at least 15 June.

We know that it would be impossible to find a solution which was perfect for everybody. Our main objective was to ensure that every student had a fair and equitable opportunity in this academic year to complete their course/graduate or to progress to the next year, depending on their level of study. On Friday morning, the University published some key details of the agreed framework.

What does the framework mean for me?
We have written a clearer description of how the framework will work. You can find this here. The framework will impact every student, so please read the information carefully.

For levels 3, 4 and 5, you should find out within a week or so which arrangement (category A or B) applies to you. The University will decide the categorisations this week and notify students on Friday. For levels 6 and 7, alternative assessments, where applicable, should already be available on Moodle.

Regardless of level, your course or module leaders will be in contact about the specific arrangements that apply to you.

Questions and answers
We have received more than 1,500 queries and comments in the last week and the University has received thousands more. We have worked with the University to prepare a list of questions and answers about the assessment framework. This includes responses to most questions received to date so that all students can see the answers. This will be published later today. Watch our social media for more details.

We are sorry we have been unable to respond to everybody individually. Unfortunately, we do not have enough staff to do so and, in some cases, we do not yet know the answers to the questions.

Online student meetings
The University has agreed to our request that they host online student meetings for each school so that students can ask questions about the changes to the assessment framework. These will happen at the end of this week; the dates and times will be confirmed soon. To ensure students have a chance to get their question answered, students can submit questions in advance; we have a form where you can do this. Students can also ask questions in the meetings.

Challenging and reporting incorrect information
The assessment framework applies to all students; this includes the extended submission dates. Unfortunately, some University staff have given incorrect information to students. If this happens to you, please email us immediately so we can make sure the staff members involved are given the correct information: students.union@uel.ac.uk. Please forward any relevant emails, Moodle posts, screenshots, etc. 

Extenuating circumstances
Students can submit an extenuating circumstances claim if they have been affected by an unforeseeable and unpreventable event. COVID-19 qualifies as such an event. However, this is not always the best option for every student. You should read our guidance here to help you to decide.

How do I challenge my category?
Some students at level 3, 4 or 5 may wish to challenge their categorisation. However, this option has significant risks and is unlikely to be a good choice for most students. The process has not yet been agreed by the University. After it has been agreed, we will publish guidance. We hope this will happen by 03 April.

Additional support
We know the closure of the campuses and libraries has caused great difficulty for many of you. Thank you to everybody who completed our form last week. We have used this information to work with the University to agree several things to support students during the pandemic.

Tuition fees
The University has stated it will not waive any tuition fees. However, we will continue to engage with the University to ensure they understand that many students (and their parents) are struggling financially and have lost jobs or other sources of income. If you are in financial hardship and are already late with your payments, you should contact the Income and Credit Control team. You may be able to agree an alternative payment plan. Read on to find out about other financial support available for students. 

Financial support
Being a student is a financial challenge at the best of times; right now, we know that it is harder than ever. The University has several funds available to support students who are suffering financial difficulty. You can read about the available funds and how to apply here; you will have to log in to the intranet to view the details.

Some funds have specific requirements, but all students are eligible to apply for the hardship fund. A new exceptional (COVID-19-related) hardship fund is also available.

Residence rent costs
Last week, we spoke with the University on behalf of students who live in halls in Docklands to have a refund scheme put in place. The University has agreed a refund policy and emailed details to affected students on Saturday. This policy means that some students will receive refunds. In general, this covers students who are have already left.

We are aware of some dissatisfaction about the implications of this policy. We understand a further email will be sent by the University to residents today. In the first instance, students who live in halls should contact Residence Life about their personal situation. If, after speaking with Residence Life, you still have concerns, please get in touch with us.

Library
Many library services are available online. You can find details here. There are useful videos and vlogs which explain how to use library electronic resources. If you cannot find what you need after viewing the help pages or videos, you can contact library staff using this chat system. If you have questions about resources for your subject, you can contact your subject librarian.

Software
Thank you to those of you who responded to our survey about software. We are using this to help the University’s ongoing planning. The University has quickly developed and is currently trialling a new system to allow students to access some software applications from home. We will publish more details when we have them.

We are currently compiling a list of software which many students have asked for and which is available free. We will publish more details soon. Check our social media for updates.

Microsoft Office 365 is free to all students. You can find instructions on how to download it here.

There is a guide to support online learning here. It includes instructions on using Microsoft Teams and Panopto. You can download Teams here; it works on devices running Windows, iOS, Android, Mac and Linux.

Equipment
We know that some students do not have access to a computer at home. Unfortunately, the Students’ Union does not have access to a stock of computers. However, please let us know if you need something like this and we can use this information when we discuss students' needs with the University (students.union@uel.ac.uk). If you have already told us in our survey (distributed on 19 March), you do not need to tell us again.

Finally…
Thank you again for your patience over the last fortnight. We know it is an extremely challenging time for you. We will continue to work with the University to ensure students are properly taught, assessed and supported during this period.

We hope you are staying safe, healthy and following Government guidance. We suggest you join us on Instagram (@uelunion), Twitter (@uelunion) or Facebook (/uelunion) to receive regular updates.

Kind regards,

UEL Students’ Union team

Docklands (primary) office

NB.G.01 (North Building)
4-6 University Way
London
E16 2RD

T: 020 8223 7025

E: uelsu@uel.ac.uk

Stratford office

The Dome, University House
Water Lane
London
E15 4LZ

T: 020 8223 4209

Charity number: 1173994
Company number: 10820498
© UEL Students' Union 2019
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