By Chloé Meley
On Thursday 2nd of April, the Students’ Union sent out an email to students to update them on the measures the Union had implemented to support and represent students during the coronavirus crisis. Here’s what you need to know:
With regards to accommodation:
- Students living in halls who have now left are able to leave their contract, meaning they won’t have to pay for the remainder of the semester.
- Those who have left their belongings in their room can keep them there free of charge, unless the room is needed for local NHS staff (in this case, your belongings will be moved to storage, still free of charge).
- Students who wish to remain in halls can.
- Students currently in halls but who wish to leave when the lockdown is lifted will be charged per day and will be relieved of payment obligations as soon as they leave.
- The Union has also released a joint statement with the VC Max Lu to urge landlords and off-campus accommodation to implement similar measures.
With regards to assessments:
- Students do not need to give evidence when applying for extenuating circumstances. This applies for the remainder of the semester as well as the late summer resit period.
- A “no detriment” or “safety net” policy has been introduced, and applies to all years.
- Nursing, midwifery and paramedic students will receive “frequent and clear communications”.
- The Union’s VP Voice held a Postgraduate Voice Forum in collaboration with the Doctoral College and Vice-Provost Research and Innovation. They notably discussed the issue of postgraduate researchers having to work in off-campus labs as well as access to the Hardship Fund, which could provide financial relief for postgraduate researchers who rely on income from assisting with teaching/demonstrating.
- The hardship fund will also be widened to ensure more students can access it.
With regards to the Students’ Union:
- The Union now works entirely online.
- The Union will start operating according to the government’s furlough scheme, which allows organisations to furlough (which refers to a temporary period of not working) staff to minimise financial losses. Beginning Monday 6th of April, there will therefore be two alternating teams working over four-weeks periods, meaning staff will work for four weeks and then be furloughed for the next four weeks.
- This cycle will continue until the scheme ends.
- The government covers 80% of furloughed staff’s monthly salaries (up to £2500), and the Union will top up the remainder to ensure that no changes are made to anyone’s salary. SU President Gemma Paine has told Incite “there will be no financial loss to all [full time] staff”, and plans to ensure part time staff members will recieve a wage are still in progress.
- No annual leave request will be approved during this period, as there won’t be enough staff to cover.
- The Union President will be exempt of this scheme and available at all time.
The Vice-Chancellor also sent an email to all students, reiterating the University’s commitment to supporting all students in this difficult time and ending on the hopeful note that “if we continue to play our part and work together so successfully, I am confident that we will emerge from this crisis stronger and better prepared for the future.”