We are on your side.

Lobbying for your University experience during COVID-19.

Last updated: 29 January 2021

Open Letters

  1. Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan MP and the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson | Subject: Supporting Higher Education Students and their Institutions.

  2. Letter to Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) | Clarifying the position of students' consumer rights.

  3. Email from your VP Education, Ramy to Lloyd Russel Moyles (Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven MP) | Housing Refunds

Lockdown 3.0 has come as another blow to students across the UK. The global pandemic has completely changed the student experience and despite the hard work of University staff, online learning is not what students signed up for or want. Students are also stuck locked into contracts for accommodation they cannot use and are unable to work to fund topping up the insufficient student loans which barely cover the cost of their accommodation let alone food, utility bills and learning materials.  

The Government's lack response to students has been appalling, there has been no additional support put in place for all students, students are still expected to pay their full tuition fees for an experience they don’t want and their full rent for accommodation they can’t use. The University is working hard to support students as best they can, but we know they do not have the resources to properly support students and give refunds for tuition fees or accommodation. We also know many private landlords rely on rental income to get by - not all are multimillionaires or large companies. 

The Government must act now to support students across the country. They must legislate to allow students to break accommodation contracts and if necessary, support private landlords. They must also reduce tuition fees for this academic year and recognise students are not getting the service they have paid for, and they must stop passing the buck to universities. Finally, they must increase funding to Universities so that they can meet the challenges of needing to offer the best online experience possible and support students learning & wellbeing at this difficult time. 

No Detriment

We have been working closely with the University on No Detriment policies since the first lockdown in March 2020. We are really pleased that the University has continued to put in to place measures to support students through their assignments and exams.   

Benchmarking in a way that compares your performance to previous cohorts and other students is hugely problematic, which is why we fought against it last year and ensured your benchmark was based upon your own prior performance.  

Benchmarking of grades worked well for most students last year and provided a safety net. However, this year many students either won't have any marks to benchmark, or the marks gained have already been benchmarked (i.e., average has already been applied), so it simply can't work this time around.   

Instead, we have been lobbying the University on a new way to give students the best chance to succeed. 

What we're doing:

  • We have lobbied the University to continue aspects of the original No Detriment policy, such as giving students blanket mitigation and automatic deferrals.
  • We are working with the University on a new mitigating circumstance procedure for unrepresentative performance which is expected to be launched later in January 2021.
  • We are writing a letter to the Office for Students (OfS) detailing what students should expect to be in a No Detriment policy, and taking part in national lobbying on this matter.   

What we need you to do:

Tuition Fee Refunds

We are lobbying the government for a refund of tuition fees, standing alongside other SU's nationally. We are doing this on behalf of all the students who have faced unprecedented disruption to their education, which has also seen them having limited or no access to vital facilities, a lack of teaching, and missing out on important experiences, which were promised to students.  We are taking this stand because we believe it is not possible for individual the Universities to be expected to refund the sums of money due to students on mass, and the only way this can be done is through the government.  

What we're doing:

  • We are writing to local MPs for their support and to ask them to raise the issue in Parliament.
  • We are joining SUs across the UK to directly lobby government around the issues of tuition fee and accommodation refunds. 
  • We are lobbying the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan to take action to address these concerns.

What we need you to do:

  1. Contact your local MP at your term time and home address using our template emailyou can find your local MP here by typing in your postcode, and encourage your parents/guardians to do the same. 
  2. Sign this petition asking for the government to act on tuition fees.
  3. Let us know what your academic experience has been like this year through your Course Rep - if you're unsure who that is, email CourseReps@brighton.ac.uk.

Accommodation Refunds

We have acted on behalf of those of you who cannot access their university accommodation due to the recent travel restrictions. Because of our action the University have announced refunds will be made – students affected will be contacted by the university with more information. We are now doing all we can to assist our students in private accommodation to negotiate with their landlords.  

What we're doing:

  • We've already gained ground by lobbying the University to refund students in halls, however we don’t think the university has done enough, so we are also lobbying for a refund for the whole period students have been (or will be) unable to access accommodation. 
  • We have developed resources to assist students in private accommodation to lobby their landlords.  
  • We are working with other SUs nationally to raise the issues encountered by student renters across the country and urging government to legislate to change the law for the benefit of students. 

What we need you to do:

Quality and Confidence

With the introduction of the new blended learning model, we have heard from many of you about your concerns over the quality of your education and difficulties with online teaching. It is important you receive the educational experience you were promised and where you do not feel this is the case, that you seek ways to address this.

What we're doing:

  • We are raising these issues on a weekly basis with the University’s senior management team and in ongoing discussions with Ruth Whittaker the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education and Students). 
  • We have been constantly reviewing the universities No Detriment policy to make sure the university provides you with adequate opportunities to perform to your best abilities. 
  • We are writing to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) calling on them to clarify the position of students under consumer protection law, in the current situation.

What we need you to do:

  1. Feed your concerns to your Course Reps and the Officers who can raise these with the University and your course. If you don’t know who your Course Rep is contact CourseReps@brighton.ac.uk.  
  2. If you feel you are not experiencing the quality promised, you have the right to make a complaint. Read our guide to making a complaint.
  3. If you are passionate about making a difference and improving the experience of others, consider standing for election. Check out our Elections page.

What your feedback has helped us do:

  • Develop a new policy for unrepresentative performance 
  • Ensure lectures are recorded 
  • More live teaching 
  • Improve the quality of pre-recorded materials and how you access them 
  • A package of support for the class of 2021 
  • Rent refunds for university accommodation 
  • Digital Access Fund to support broadband and hardware related issues 

Wellbeing

We appreciate the pandemic may amplify existing issues and will impact each student differently that is why your wellbeing remains our one of our top priorities. As ever, we continue to raise the equality issues you tell us about, with the University, as well as working to ensure a sense of belonging through a new programme.

What we're doing:

  • We are contacting each and every student, checking in with them, and asking what more we can do to help. 
  • We have been supporting students who have been self- isolating by providing books, games and care packages to see them through. 
  • We are collaborating with the University on a programme of student-led events to give you more opportunities to connect – look out for it; Belong at Brighton Extra. 

What we need you to do:

  • Remain connected with one another virtually. 
  • Check out our ReLoaded virtual Refreshers' programme and consider joining or starting a society.  
  • Tell us about inequalities you experience or witness while at university, and we help you find solutions.  
  • Reach out for support with your mental wellbeing whenever you need it and check out the University’s wellbeing resources.