Don’t cut our courses at the University of Birmingham

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This petition calls on the University of Birmingham to urgently address major issues with the new Education Framework before approval by Senate on 10th June 2020 [full document available here]. If these issues are not addressed then we call on Senate to reject these damaging proposals and not to sell us out on our education.

Key issues that need to be addressed:

Move to online degrees: Pg.3 “given that we will have to restrict the numbers of students and staff in any given space, and large lectures are likely to be impossible to schedule and deliver under social distancing rules, it makes sense for all core lectures to be designed for, and made available via online delivery only”.

We did not sign up for an online degree. How can the University still charge full fees if moving all lectures online? Will all students be provided with laptops and stable internet connections? We do not think this proposal is fair to existing students and we call on the University to openly advertise these major changes to all incoming and existing students.

Cuts to our curriculum: Pg.5 “we make the strong recommendation that Schools reduce the number of optional modules on offer”. We have seen emails that suggest a “massive” reduction in the number of modules provided across the University and have seen reports from reps in one department that 39 final year modules will be reduced to just 12.

This is completely unethical and not what students signed up for. Will students be consulted on which modules go? Will the specialist research informed education we were promised be replaced by narrow, generic content? How will student spending be affected if you are cutting up to 70% of our modules?

Job losses and lack of support: There is currently a “recruitment freeze” across the University with post grads being told that all PGTA work for next year has been cancelled; no advisors in the Academic Skills Centre will be recruited; and no new counsellors will be recruited despite the University already being woefully short of accredited counselling staff. UCU have also reported to us that hundreds of teaching staff on fixed term contracts may lose their jobs. 

How can the University claim a world leading education and still charge us full fees when you are sacking our teaching and support staff?

No consideration of equalities or disabilities: We note that there has so far been no equalities impact assessment of how these plans may affect students with disabilities and mental health issues, students with caring responsibilities, or students from disadvantaged backgrounds or marginalised groups. 

Why has this not been done?

University finances not an excuse: We note that the University is expecting an £80m shortfall in fees next year, but last year had £126m cash in hand and £255m in investment assets. The University also made a £78m cash surplus on operations last year.

If University finances are really the issue why have the Vice Chancellor and the senior management team refused to follow other Universities and take a pay cut? Is it one rule for you and another for everyone else? 

What we want:

  1. A full consultation followed by an all staff & student vote on whether or not to accept the new Education Framework;
    A guarantee that University laptops will be made available to all students or for a £1,000 cash refund of student fees so that students can ensure we have the materials we need to study online;
  2. For the University to substantially increase hardship funds for students most at risk and ensure there are no prerequisites about how much regular income students must have before applying;
    For similar levels of teaching work to be made available to all postgraduates or a commitment to refund postgraduate student fees if this is not delivered;
  3. For a full equalities impact assessment to published with clear safeguards and adjustments put in place, and updated guarantees on extenuating circumstances;
  4. For the integrity of our education to be maintained with a commitment to deliver in some form the degrees we all signed up for;
  5. To protect the jobs of staff at the University.

Please sign this petition and make sure these demands are not ignored!