4 min read4 hours
Student representatives at some of the UK’s top universities are calling on industry leaders to restore safety nets and offer rental discounts after nearly a year of disruption from the pandemic.
On Monday, union presidents of 22 members of the prestigious Russell Group of Universities, which represent nearly half a million students, wrote to the organization urging it to reinstate student safety nets.
After the impact of previous statewide bans in March and November last year, many universities have put in place no-penalty policies to ensure student grades are not unduly affected by the crisis.
However, the Russell Group confirmed last week that it will not reintroduce such guidelines for the new term as they are no longer deemed “necessary or appropriate”, adding that their universities are “confident” that all students are still a “fair” could achieve class “.
Today, I and other senior executives across the Russell Group wrote to them to express our concern about the harmless policy statement they released during the week. We will continue to fight to ensure that the students are treated fairly and look forward to your response #ForgottenStudents pic.twitter.com/LlTV9AjZcl
– Dorothy Chirwa✊🏾 (@NUSUpresident) January 11, 2021
However, in a letter signed by union leaders at 22 of Russell Group’s 24 member universities, the organization was accused of causing “unnecessary fear”.
The letter argues that the “unforeseen circumstances” that led to such measures in March 2020 are “still necessary” as they “will still have an impact on students in 2021”.
“No student should be disadvantaged by the effects of COVID-19. No student should be disadvantaged by any mitigating measures introduced, ”says the letter.
“As much as possible, all students should have a level playing field to demonstrate their academic achievements.”
It went on, “Hence, we urge universities to recognize that all students continue to be affected by the pandemic.
“Any rejection of safety net guidelines because they apply to all students does not recognize the above fact.
“We urge universities to implement safety net policies that apply to all students, regardless of their background or course, and take into account the individual challenges that students face.”
💥 MORE THAN 45 UNIVERSITIES (and it counts!) WILL BE RENTING THIS JANUARY 💥
This is the largest national student rent strike in history! If you are a student at one of these universities, please get involved! ✊ pic.twitter.com/7jT43weVKc
– RENTAL STRIKING (@rentstrikenow) January 6, 2021
Their intervention takes place amid ongoing rental protests at many UK universities. According to reports, around 15,000 students have withheld rent in protest of the high housing costs for rooms that have been rendered unusable by the lockdown.
Campaign groups have been organized in more than 40 universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Warwick and member institutions of the University of London.
Many Labor MPs have expressed solidarity with the action, despite the party’s refusal to publicly launch the largest UK rent strike in decades.
Last month the Labor Party’s youth wing issued a statement calling on Keir Starmer to stand up for the strikers and their demands.
Nadia Whittome, MP from Nottingham East, told PoliticsHome that the students were treated “horribly” during the pandemic.
“Many students feel they are little more than ‘money cows’, regardless of their physical, mental and financial well-being. It is no surprise that they are organizing and standing up for their rights, ”she said.
Elsewhere, Shadow Universities Minister Emma Hardy urged the government to do more for students affected by the lockdown.
“The government’s failure to control the spread of the virus is denying students the university experience they deserve,” she said.
“It is clearly unfair that many students are paying for housing that the government tells them not to return to.
“Action is needed to address this injustice and all housing providers should work with students, tenants and their representatives to find a fair solution.”