2020/21 Safety Net Policy for University of Bristol students

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*This petition has been adapted from similar petitions circling other universities.*

Amidst the first wave of the pandemic, all students were granted a safety net policy which alleviated much worry and stress. With the pandemic increasing in strength and with the UK being in lockdown once again, the stress upon students is matched if not greater than that experienced in the last academic year.

With libraries now only open for urgent reasons and sports activities drawn to a halt following lockdown 3.0, the work-life balance of students is next to none. Students have no choice but to to study and live in one place with little releases for their mental well-being. This places immense stress on students to achieve to the best of their abilities despite such unprecedented times. Students have had to deal with not one, not two, but THREE national lockdowns due to rising cases that are now higher than ever, and new strains. The latest lockdown also has no end date and is likely to last until April (for most of us, near the end of the academic year), meaning most of us would have had almost all year affected by the pandemic with teaching completely online.

Furthermore, with Bristol students having to deal with the stresses of being allocated to Tier 3 with the majority of the country being in Tier 2 late last year, this naturally affected the work-life balance of students who were promised (and were rarely delivered, if not no) blended learning.

As per the government guidance, students have now been told to stay where they are and not to travel back to university. This means that students now have to study in incompatible conditions to perform at an adequate or previously achieved level. Furthermore, we are now trapped in rental contracts (with interest bearing loans to fund them) that we are not allowed utilise. 

Being expected to perform to the same level as to that prior to COVID without a safety net is unjust. Particularly when 19/20 students were granted one for just one semester of interruption. This year we students are having to adapt our learning (which has not been easy), lifestyle, coping mechanisms and reassurances not just for one term, but for the whole year. This will definitely have an affect on student mental health and ability to perform.

On top of the learning obstacles, many students are still and will still be directly affected by the pandemic, if not affecting them, affecting their loved ones which comes with much uncertainty and anxiety further hindering ability to perform well.

In this current academic year, the university sold the false pretence of in-person teaching, however this has not been delivered due to the exponential cases of COVID. The university have not done enough to support students, with a lack of proper teaching (not the fault of lecturers, in some cases, who are rightly scared of coming into contact with others) and support, and failing to recognise that the issues of last year persist now MORE than ever. To value a year of what should have been in-person education at £9,250, but now with limited teaching, office hours, and lack of tangible resources is outrageous. There is nothing to warrant such an extortionate cost. 

Whilst safety and signposting has become a normal part of life, the university has neglected to offer the students any respite to workload. It is time the University acted to protect the welfare of their student body.

A safety net would alleviate much pressure and allow a proper, unhindered assessment of our achievements by allowing us to maintain the grades we obtained in a COVID-free world.

By signing this petition we are asking for the introduction of a safety net policy, previously instated in order to bring fairer results for students this year. Other mitigations we ask for are revised assessments, deadlines, fees, support over both university and private accommodation costs, and further costs where the value could not be maximised, e.g. gym memberships. We are asking for fairness, no more than what was given for the 2019/2020 academic year. Is this too much to ask for?

This is not what we signed up for, not what we were promised, and not what was expected or organised when joining university.