Email from the Vice Chancellor to students (Friday 3 April 2020)
As you know, throughout every stage of this international pandemic, the University of Worcester has been committed to ensuring that the interests of our students are at the heart of every decision that we have taken as we have sought to systematically follow Public Health England and UK Government advice. We have been as open as possible with you about the challenges the University faces and the actions being taken.
I am particularly grateful to the Students’ Union who have engaged so constructively in discussions, and to all of you who have taken the time to write to your lecturers and personal academic tutors with suggestions. I am confident that we have addressed many of the questions that were raised – for example, providing flexibility to account for differing needs and situations.
As we begin the Easter holidays, I am writing to remind you of the academic and welfare arrangements that are already in place and to share details about the ongoing support that is available to you.
Online teaching and learning
We are doing all we can to ensure students feel supported in progressing or graduating as they planned before the global coronavirus pandemic emerged.
Like most universities, and like most students, we have transformed our approach to learning over the past few weeks. Online learning began on Friday the 20th of March, immediately following the last day of face to face teaching. Each School has taken great care that this revised approach, whether for teaching or assessment, does not disadvantage any student and is sensitive to the individual needs of students across all courses.
You can read more about the Arrangements for online learning on our website.
We find ourselves in very uncertain times and we know that current events will be causing students anxiety. We understand that preparing for assessments this year will be challenging, both in practical and emotional terms. This is not the University experience our students were expecting, but there remains important value in our students continuing to study, to revise, and to take assessments.
We have implemented a solution that is as simple and uniform as it can be – with some considered variations where there is a clear need. We believe that our approach is one of the most generous across UK universities in its flexibility and its capacity to reduce complexity, minimise disruption, and provide an equitable approach for all students.
Exceptionally this year, all students on standard, taught undergraduate and postgraduate courses will have the option to submit all or some of your assessments as scheduled in April/May 2020 or to defer all or some of your assessments until the week commencing 6th July 2020. You are able to make your decision by going on to your SOLE page and completing a very short form.
We are writing separately to postgraduate research students and courses with professional placements, such as teacher training and nursing, to outline your options.
You can find further details about our approach to assessments in our recent emails to you: Extension to submission deadlines and How to request an extension.
We also understand that all students have been impacted by the effects of the coronavirus, some very severely. Individual cases will of course continue to be considered carefully and sympathetically through our existing mitigating circumstances process.
Why is the University continuing to conduct examinations?
We have given considerable thought as to how we can ensure that we can maintain the academic standard of your education during the challenging and unprecedented situation that we are currently experiencing. A qualification from the University of Worcester is rightly highly regarded. At graduation ceremonies, we remind you that you have earned your degree by your own hard work.
Our responsibility to you is that we ensure that your achievements are reliably assessed and your qualifications are awarded securely. We design academic courses very carefully, including the way in which we assess that you have met the learning outcomes for your course. Examinations are part of that very carefully thought through assessment process. By offering you the opportunity to defer any or all of your assessments to July, we believe that with your continued hard work, we are giving you the best possible chance of succeeding in all of your assignments.
Why aren’t all universities doing the same thing?
Each university has to take decisions that are in the best interests of their own students. Whilst most universities are taking similar approaches to teaching, learning and assessment, there will be some differences based on each institution’s own context and the students studying with them.
Please be assured that we continue to follow national expectations and guidance from the UK Quality Assurance Agency, Universities UK and the Office for Students.
Unlike many universities, we have not fully closed our campus and have instead kept key facilities open for our students who need them urgently, including accommodation, the Peirson Study and Guidance Centre and the St. John’s campus shop.
Since online learning began on 20 March, the majority of students have returned to family homes and vacated their term time residences. Approximately one quarter of our students have chosen to stay in Worcester in a combination of halls of residence and University managed accommodation.
Consistent with our commitment to putting the interests of our students first, we have decided to waive the payment due for accommodation provided by the University from March 20 for all University of Worcester students who have already left their University/University managed accommodation by April 3 and do not return this academic year.
We have added additional accommodation guidance and advice, including for students who are living in private, rented accommodation to our Coronavirus information page, which now includes a dedicated series of FAQs.
Car Parking Refunds
All student car parking permits which run beyond March 20 will be refunded. This is a substantial administrative task and will take a little while to process, but you do not need to take any action as we will automatically process this for you.
Ongoing financial support
We are aware that some students will have questions about Student Finance England maintenance payments and tuition fee loans.
Michelle Donelan MP, Minister of State for Universities, stated the following in her recent letter to students:
“I would like to assure you that the Student Loans Company (SLC) is planning to make Term 3 tuition fee payments as scheduled and that you will continue to receive maintenance payments on the scheduled dates, whether or not campuses are closed or learning has moved online.”
You can read the full letter from the Minister here.
We recognise that some students may be suffering particular and unexpected financial difficulty as a consequence of the current crisis and we have resources available to support them through our Hardship Fund. You can contact our Money Advice team at email@example.com and they will be able to discuss options with you.
Support for you
Academic and professional staff across the University will be doing everything we can to support you in the weeks and months ahead. We will continue to post regular updates to the frequently asked questions on our website: cascade.thisweekonlot.com/coronavirus
If you have a question that hasn’t been answered on the website, please get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
We care deeply about the education and the well-being of every one of our students. I am very grateful to all members of the University community for being so calm, purposeful and kind in tackling this unprecedented, international crisis.
With all best wishes.
Professor David M A Green CBE
Vice Chancellor & Chief Executive
University of Worcester