Final year students had the opportunity to ask senior staff questions about their last few months at the University during a live online question and answer session.

Summaries of the answers can be found below including topics such as rent rebates, teaching and assessments. 

  1. Return to campus
  2. Negative Covid tests to access the library
  3. Rent rebate support
  4. Tuition fees
  5. Feedback and assignments
  6. Online summer assessments
  7. No detriment and assessments
  8. Graduation
  9. Help applying for jobs
  10. Parchments and degree certificates
  11. Film Production: Filming graduate films
  12. Languages: Year abroad
  13. Biomedical Sciences: Finding Graduate jobs
  14. Musical theatre

1. Return to campus

Current Government guidance says that, except for identified courses in areas such as health, social care and teacher training, teaching must be online only. We're expecting a Government announcement on 22 February. Although we're not certain what the Government will say, we do not expect a return to blended and connected teaching, which includes face-to-face sessions, before 8 March. We are expecting a phased return to blended and connected learning, but we are awaiting announcements from the Government. We have no concrete information from the Government about this, so we cannot be certain. If you're living with a vulnerable person, please speak to your personal tutor to discuss your personal circumstances and the best option for you going forward. We know some students will not be able to return to campus even when allowed to do so by the Government, and we will continue to support those students online where appropriate. 

2. Negative Covid tests to access the library

The timing between tests is really important. The Government advice about testing twice a week is based on an understanding of how the viral infection develops. For example, you could have a negative test but be exposed to the virus later that day and then three days later that virus will be detectable: taking a test twice weekly helps you be sure that you’re virus free. There are plenty of tests available at the Spinnaker Sports Centre if you don’t have symptoms, or through the NHS if you do have symptoms. Over 90% of students who are using the library are complying by showing they have had a recent negative test to access the building. The library also has a click and collect service and a large range of ebooks, ejournals and other materials online

3. Rent rebate support

We emailed all students about a new Rent Assistance Scheme, using Government funding recently awarded to us to help students suffering financial hardship who are liable for rent in private accommodation which they have not been able to occupy due to the recent lockdown. Please be aware the deadline for applications is 28 February. We appreciate it’s a tight deadline, but it’s been imposed to ensure that we are able to meet the Government’s spending deadline. 

For University halls of residence, we've offered an 80% rent rebate until the end of lockdown, which they have not been able to occupy due to the recent lockdown. Some other hall providers are also providing rent rebates. We have been working with the Students' Union to lobby and influence private landlords to offer reductions, but we cannot force them to do so. In these circumstances, students should use the Rent Assistance Scheme or the University Support Fund, which also helps students facing financial difficulties for other expenses such as bills, food and some medical costs, such as prescriptions of contact lenses.

4. Tuition fees

We are all frustrated about not being able to provide the face-to-face teaching element of our blended and connected approach to the majority of students in the way we would expect. We must follow Government guidance to try to reduce the spread of the virus and avoid overloading the NHS. We will be welcoming students back to campus as soon as we are able. We’ve had to invest significantly to ensure that the campus is covid compliant, and more staff time is spent working with students because we are teaching both online and face-to-face to small groups. There’s been no reduction in costs to the University this year.

The question of fee reductions is a national issue rather than for an individual university. We, and other universities, are awaiting a Government response and are looking to them to provide more support to universities. We cannot act alone in reducing fees. It’s also worth saying that if the Government did give fee refunds, most students would be unlikely to get any cash rebate right now. The Government would almost certainly deduct money from future loan repayments. 

We have worked hard to provide high quality teaching. If you have concerns please contact your tutor, course leader or Students’ Union course rep. We are also receiving a lot of positive feedback from students who appreciate what’s being done to support their learning.

5. Feedback and assignments

We are committed to maintaining excellent levels of communication with students. Any lack of response for feedback on assignments or dissertations would be disappointing to hear. Students can contact the Associate Dean for Students for their Faculty, who can follow up with any concerns:

Support for dissertation or academic skills is also available from our central Academic Skills (ASK) team and Faculty-based Learning Support/Learning Development/Academic Skills Tutors. Personal Tutors are also a good source for support, advice and information. In the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries we also have specialist skills tutors who provide software and technical equipment support. All of our support is currently available online.

6. Online summer assessments

We are waiting for the Government guidance, but it is very likely that assessments will be online in the summer period and staff will be ensuring that these are designed to address learning outcomes as we did last summer. Some courses may need to complete on-campus practical activities to comply with professional bodies’ requirements, particularly if they’re health related courses. Depending on Government guidance, there may be a requirement/opportunity to delay some health-related face-to-face assessments until later in the year. But if it is fundamental and about the safety of patients, then we suspect that most of these will take place on campus under safe conditions. Please speak to your course leader for guidance. 
 

7. No detriment and assessments

We have always looked at an individual’s personal circumstances and provided the appropriate practices to take these into account. Last year we introduced a number of ‘no detriment practices’ that have been rolled forward for this year, including:

  • Changes to Assessments 
  • Extensions to Deadlines
  • Extenuating Circumstances
  • Module Assessment Boards
  • Trailing Modules

Students performed better in Teaching Block 2 last year during the lockdown than they had in previous years due in no small part to the adoption of the no detriment practices. No detriment practices also apply to group assessments. If any student has concerns please speak to your personal tutor. This infographic is a helpful guide.

 

8. Graduation

The decision not to hold on-campus ceremonies this summer is a decision we really did not want to make, but we felt we had no choice. We’re not expecting the Government to issue specific guidance about big events like Graduations, but we believe social distancing will be in place well into the summer and probably for the rest of the calendar year to stop the spread of the virus. On that basis it will not be possible to run ‘normal’ graduations within the Guildhall due to capacity issues.

We took the decision now to give us time to plan the next best alternative - a high quality virtual Graduation event with a commercial provider experienced in running online ceremonies of this kind. This includes being able to rent a cap and gown. Further details will be shared as soon as we’re able. We’re also planning a celebration for graduates next summer and we want to make that event as special as we possibly can. We will be inviting all our 2020 and 2021 graduates back in the summer of 2022 to join us for a special graduation celebration, which will provide the wonderful gowned photo opportunities with friends and family, which is so important. These graduation celebrations will be specifically for our graduates of 2020 and 2021. 

9. Help applying for jobs

Students should speak to our Careers and Employability Service who have a strong track record of helping students find graduate jobs through their in-house agency - the Graduate Recruitment Consultancy - which students can access for 5 years after they graduate. It’s never too early to contact them for careers advice, so please do so. They also have graduate roles advertised on the MyCareer Jobs Board, and advice about tailoring CVs and preparing for interviews. 

Across all Faculties, personal tutors are also available for discussion about future careers and often have a large network of alumni or industry colleagues that might be able to help. They can also help students think about what makes them stand out above other job candidates. Course teams also have very good networks of alumni. The Faculty of Business and Law have a Career Ready Programme which also advertises opportunities. In the Faculty of Technology this is the time of year when final year engineering students need to apply for graduate vacancies. There is good demand in many industries, but you have to be resilient and keep applying.
 

10. Parchments and degree certificates

Students who receive a 2021 exam summer board award, would usually receive their parchments or degree certificates from the end of July onwards. We can provide confirmation of your degree to relevant institutions for a new role or course if the parchment is not available in time. Speak to your MyPort Hub who will be able to advise you. 

11. Film Production: Filming graduate films

We’re looking at a few options at the moment. We are constrained by Government guidance, but if some students are allowed to return to campus, courses with core practical elements will be prioritised. We’re also looking at the possibility of organising some extra curricular activities in the summer which will provide students with an opportunity to develop work for their portfolios and enhance practical skills. We are not yet able to provide confirmation of this, but we will communicate with students as soon as we know more. 
 

12. Languages: Year abroad

Students were offered a range of options after we decided to suspend international mobilities due to the global pandemic, which is affecting language students worldwide. Options included transferring to a 3-year course, suspending for a year (in the hope of completing the year abroad in 2021/22) or a virtual year abroad. As part of this virtual year abroad, we are providing teaching in the form of a Language Supplement Programme, as well as conversation classes and the option to complete an independent project. Students have also been offered virtual opportunities such as virtual work placements, virtual exchanges (in Spanish, in particular) and virtual mobilities with our French and Belgian partner institutions.
 

13. Biomedical Sciences: Finding graduate jobs

We know there are various stages within this particular career. Being offered an interview may depend on the phrasing of the job advert and whether it’s suitable for trainees. Biomedical science students should speak to their personal tutor who will be very supportive and could speak to the employer about the practical experience needed to qualify for these roles, and whether that can be demonstrated in personal statements or through other supportive material. For example, we know there is a specific way of writing an NHS job application which can help achieve an interview. 
 

14. Musical Theatre: Filming assessments

We’re trying to make sure that our students’ ability to complete assessments is not impacted by the Government constraints which we are operating under. Students should reach out to their course leader, module leader or personal tutor for help to complete their assessments.
 

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