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Weekly University Update: safety nets, online learning, rent reduction hopes

Photo by Joel Barwick on Unsplash

Written by Izzie Norwood

We can all agree the start of 2021 hasn’t been the Covid-free paradise everybody fantasised about back in March. The virus has affected the experiences of university students all across the country, in ways we couldn’t have pictured, and York University’s new safety-net is the most recent answer to the local students’ questions.

Thursday 7th January saw an email which received a multitude of opinions from University of York students. The vice-chancellor’s announcement of a safety-net was sure to ease the minds of the current cohort, particularly with the most recent restrictions and upcoming exams. But is this safety-net the answer to the students’ worries? 

Some may argue that changes in evidence requirements for extensions under the University’s ECA (Exceptional Circumstances Affecting Assessment) policy are a useful tool for those unable to complete deadlines in the current situation, however, when this is combined with the reweighting of marks for second and third-year students, there have been mixed opinions brought to light. A recent post on the ‘yorkmemes’ Instagram account has labelled this approach as a ‘detriment’ to the final year students and are due to release an open letter to the vice-chancellor requesting changes. Possible safety-net alterations have been outlined by ‘yorkmemes’ in their current open letter, suggesting that previous exam marks should be carried into the current year, with appropriate adjustments to compensate for the current situation. 

The requests come following the university’s announcement that Spring Term will be held entirely online, with the exception of those courses outlined in the recent government guidelines. This announcement has again evoked a variety of opinions, with many students opting to return to York, despite the online-learning, and others remaining home until restrictions ease. The University has vowed to support those students unable to return, whilst welcoming those who feel as though their wellbeing will benefit from returning to York to do so. Many programmes are yet to receive timetables for these changes; lecturers have been tasked with ensuring students are offered sessions as fulfilling as those which would have taken place in person, with many students on practical courses questioning whether many of their modules will be able to continue.

Again, outlined in the recent ‘yorkmemes’ open letter to the vice-chancellor, the reduction of rent charges is another improvement university students are hoping for. 2020 saw students facing both extremes, from being advised not to return to their beloved colleges back in March, to the new cohort isolating in their rooms in October. Those students who are staying in their hometowns are hoping for a cost reduction to compensate for their time away from university and are still awaiting responses to their enquiries. 

With all the challenges and setbacks of the 2020 academic year, students are awaiting answers, and continue to support each other within the quickly changing environment in which they study.