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Open letter from students for refunds and special consideration

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An open letter to Chris Day, Vice Chancellor at Newcastle University asking  for refunds and special consideration as a result of teaching time lost due to the current strike:

Over the past couple of weeks I have attended discussions from yourself, Bruce Baker, the representative for the UCU at Newcastle as well as meetings with the Student Union, with a view to become more informed about the strike and the impact it will have on students.

As both sides have stated, no guarantees can be made to students as nobody knows how the strike will ultimately be resolved. I have no doubt that the university will make some attempts to minimise the effects, however, as you are open to student suggestions, I would like to display that refunds and special consideration for any teaching time lost over the strike period is what students feel entitled to.

This is a demand which has been made across the country by university students at Bristol, Kings College London and more. If I went into a shop and gave them money for a book and this was not given to me, then I would demand my money back. Simple. We invest huge sums of money into Newcastle University which are transferred without our ability to withhold payments directly from our student finance accounts to the university itself, not to mention how much greater this sum is for long courses and for students from abroad.

At your open forum the question was raised as to whether we will be refunded for lost lectures we have paid for, we were told that as the university buildings will remain open a service is provided and that we don’t just come to university for teaching hours. I cannot stress enough that independent study in the Robinson library for 14 days’ worth of teaching hours is most definitely not the same as 14 days with expert teaching time and advice. Ultimately, I would not have chosen to invest £9000 a year into a university purely providing facilities, teaching hours are vital to me receiving my full university ‘experience’. We are consistently reminded of this through the pride the university takes in promoting the attainment of a Gold Teaching Framework award across campus.

More importantly, we have invested our time and trust into the university for the guidance needed to fulfil our academic potential.

Yes, it’s only a loss of 14 days, but that’s 75% of my lectures for the next month and what happens if there is no resolution? My housemate needs a first to be awarded a scholarship worth thousands to fund her masters. Another needs a 2:1 to get on to her graduate scheme. We are not only talking loss of immediate fees here, but a loss of one mark could ultimately diminish our future earnings.

It was reassuring to be informed that applying for PEC forms is a possibility. But I have concerns as to whether this will be an effective way of ensuring all students affected are considered?

Yes, PEC does consider on an individual basis…. but I would like to know how you are planning to consider from our past grades the impact the loss of these contact hours will have had on the potential of the individual student in their specific modules this term? Particularly third years who may have been intending to push themselves to reach a new grade boundary this term. This isn’t a personal extenuating circumstance, this is widespread and is something that the university is aware will be impacting students and so I feel a clearer reassurance on how you plan to compensate for this is necessary.


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