Improved safety net or no detriment policy for 2020/21 at Southampton University

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This is a plea to the Vice Chancellor, Heads of Departments and decision makers of the University of Southampton, 

The students of Southampton need a safety net or new no detriment policy now more than ever, yet last year we received one and are now being denied. 

The country wide COVID-19 situation has worsened since the 2019/20 academic year, mental health (of both students and that of their families) has severely deteriorated, we are now paying for accommodation we are not able to stay in. Many students have not been able to see friends and family, and the social aspect of University is almost non existent. Many are now stuck at home with less than ideal working conditions. Almost all lectures are online which is not as effective as in person teaching. These are only a few of the struggles we are facing. Our situation has become worse, not better than 2019/20 and we are not now ‘used’ to this way of living. We deserve a no detriment policy now as much as we did then, if not more so.

We appreciate the University staffs hard work and the attempt to mitigate these circumstances by making assessments online, however many of these are now far harder than what we would experience in a normal exam. For example, the expectation of writing a 2000 word essay in 24 hours which would normally take 2/3 weeks if set as coursework. Student nurses are expected to put themselves at risk doing unpaid work whilst completing assignments. These are not the degrees any of us signed up for, and they should not be treated as such.

Your students are immensely suffering and these changes have made many of our lives harder, not easier. As a University that is supposed to pride itself on caring for its students and their academic potential, we are telling you this is not good enough. As you expect the highest from us, we expect more from you.

A no detriment policy would not invalidate our degrees, it would reflect the immense hardships experienced by this years students, with many having over 1/2 their degrees affected by COVID. However, obtaining grades less than reflective of the grades we know we have the potential to achieve will greatly impact our future prospects. We simply can not be expected to perform to the same standard as previous years, as we currently are. A no detriment policy would ensure our academic potential is reflected by our degrees, and we are not at a disadvantage compared to previous years.

Individual extensions will not help, the current changed exam formats will not help and enabling services can not change the situation we are in. You do not know what it is like being a student during the pandemic, we are trying to tell you and we urge you to hear us, as the change makers that hold the power to alter our futures. A no detriment policy or safety net formed with students feedback from the last policy in mind is the only way to ensure our degrees are still reflective of our abilities. With confirmation to us ASAP that some form of policy will be implemented to ease our anxieties. 

Some U.K. universities are beginning to implement safety net policies, and we urge you to join them and set an example of Universities caring about their students, their mental health’s, their academic lives and their futures, as they should. We are not asking for a cop out, we are simply asking for the support we deserve and are paying for. 

Yours sincerely,

The signatories of this petition