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Vice Chancellor Addresses Student Concerns In Heated Q&A

UoN's Vice Chancellor Shearer West responded to students' concerns on the 9th and 11th February.
Safa Shahid

In an online Q&A session, Vice Chancellor Shearer West spoke to students about any concerns they had over how the University had managed the latest set of restrictions, and the support given to students. The sessions took place on the 9th and 11th February and addressed pressing questions from students related to fees, mental health and accommodation.

The sessions took place on the same week it was announced that the Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester was facing a vote of no confidence by its students.

The largest number of students asked whether the University would be reducing student fees and expressed how the loss of the student experience, quality of learning and online learning meant they felt a refund should be issued.

The ongoing issue of student fees has been a pressing topic since 2019

Professor Shearer West responded saying that there were ‘no current plans to reducing student fees’ and that ‘fees support the salaries of their staff’.  The University added that formal complaints about teaching should be taken up through individual Schools and departments first.

The ongoing issue of student fees has been a pressing topic since 2019, when strikes at the University meant that students missed out on months of teaching.

Students also raised the issue of student hardship funds for home and international students. The Office for Students has provided an additional £419,000 to the University’s existing funds and the relaunch of the COVID-19 Crisis fund.

Accommodation fees were also highlighted and the issue of third party University providers, such as CLV and Sutton Bonington. The Vice Chancellor pointed out that the University is not charging accommodation fees where students are not studying on a programme that currently allows them to return for in-person teaching and they are not using their room. It was also mentioned that the University has been pushing for third parties, such as Unite Students and Student Rooster to offer some form of rebate or credits.

However, this has been limited. Unite Students has offered a 50% discount for eligible students during the lockdown and an option to extend their tenancy in the summer for up to 4 weeks. As a result, students who are not going back to their accommodation during lockdown are currently paying for rooms that aren’t being lived in.

Additional support was also given to support student mental health. The University has funded a further £200,000 year as well as an increased capacity specialist practitioners within the mental health team at the university health centre. Online access has also been provided to all university students to mental health support platforms.

At a time of rising tensions between students and university authorities, this online Q&A with the Vice Chancellor has provided some form of communication and direction.

Safa Shahid 

Featured image courtesy of Arran Bee via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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