Bucks New University’s recently appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Digital, Professor Rachel Cragg, and our own Students' Union President, Tamsin Grainger, talk about the No Detriment Policy and other measures in place to ensure you still succeed in your studies during this pandemic.
The pandemic has affected so many aspects of the student experience, what are the University’s and Students' Union’s top priorities during this time?
Rachel Cragg: Our key priority at this time is to ensure that you are able to continue in and complete your studies. We want you to be able to receive your education, for it to remain of quality, and for you to be able to progress to the next chapter of your career with confidence. This means that we want to keep students, staff and our communities safe. We want to mitigate the impact of restriction on social contact and opening of facilities to the best of our ability within government guidelines. And we want to support you in achieving the best possible outcomes.
Tamsin Grainger: As a Students’ Union we value every part of the student experience, but obviously at times like these this looks very different than normal.
We are working hard to try and create opportunities for students to stay connected with their communities and friendship groups, whether that’s your course cohort, club or society, as well as enabling our members to access the recreational and developmental sessions you are used to through the Big Deal while supporting those most affected by these trying ciRachel Craggumstances through our advice and representation teams.
It’s not been easy but we’ve generated a wide programme of virtual events, activities and support structures as well as planning to deliver all the things you love best about your Union experience as restrictions ease in the coming months.
On top of this our main priority has been to ensure that all students are heard and that your concerns are considered right at the very top of the University. Every day we are advocating for Bucks Students and lobbying on your behalf, we are in challenging times but it’s as important as it ever was that every individual at Bucks gets the best experience possible.
Do we have a No-Detriment Policy (NDP) and what does it actually mean in simple terms?
Rachel Cragg: Yes, we do. We put a NDP in place last year to ensure the pandemic doesn’t negatively affect your outcomes. Simply put; we have adopted emergency regulations to ensure that our assessment processes acknowledge the impact of the pandemic on you whilst maintaining the value and quality of your academic award. This policy is in place to provide for additional measures to support you at times when ciRachel Craggumstances beyond the University’s control may impact on your studies and your academic performance. The NDP will be in place for the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year. These emergency regulations acknowledge you have faced disruption in your personal and academic life and cover Mitigating CiRachel Craggumstances and Extensions, late submission of coursework, and reassessment opportunities, and consider detrimental impact at award stage. We have a detailed section of FAQs about the No Detriment policy on our website.
Tamsin Grainger: No student’s academic success should be adversely affected by the pandemic and it’s incredibly important that the university puts measures in place to ensure against this. We were pleased when the institution agreed to roll out their NDP for the rest of the year and hope that it gives students the assurance they need. If you have any concerns or if there’s more you think needs doing, then we want to hear about it.
Like a lot of people, some students are having financial problems. What are you doing to help?
Tamsin Grainger: We’ve been in constant talks with the university about financial support and again, we were really pleased to see the Bucks Emergency Allowance extended. Our Advice Centre our working really hard with many, many student inquiries about finances and money concerns and we are helping wherever we can.
We don’t believe that students should be paying for halls when they can’t access campus-based facilities, and for most, their learning experience has changed so radically so its right that the University honoured their guarantee not to charge students in such a situation. I know this has been a huge relief to many and we thank the University for dealing with it quickly.
However, many students don’t live in Uni run accommodation and we support the VCs move to write an open letter to landlords asking them to consider helping their student tenants and we are hosting a template letter that the Uni created on our website for students to use if they want to contact their landlord directly.
We have also written to ministers and MPs urging them to support Universities so that they have the finances to do right by students in these unprecedented times.
Rachel Cragg: We realise that this may be a tough time for many of you; particularly those who rely on part time work to support their studies, those with caring responsibilities, or those affected by COVID-19. To date, more than 1,500 students have received grants totalling in excess of £245,000 through the University’s Bucks Emergency Allowance, which was set up last year to help students facing financial hardship. We’ve also given rent rebates to students in our halls from the last week of December until the end of February, saving them between £600 and £1000 each. You can find out about other ways we can help you financially,?on our website. The situation is changing all the time and we are keeping the need for financial support under review.
I’m not studying a future critical worker course so am not having any face-to-face teaching at the moment, can I still access facilities on campus?
Rachel Cragg: Good question. Sadly, the latest lockdown and government rules means that we are not able to open all of our facilities or deliver face-to-face for many of our courses. We will do all we can to get students back on campus and benefiting from our on-campus study facilities as soon as we are allowed, and it is safe to do so. Our campuses are open for those who will benefit from access and live close by. We have an at-a-glance guide to what facilities are open and when on our website. This includes the library at High Wycombe and quiet spaces to study, or just somewhere to access wifi and keep warm.
If you are going to come to campus we encourage you to take an asymptomatic test. The team are very friendly and ready to welcome you for twice weekly testing between Monday and Friday, 9am-5pm, at the West Wing building on the High Wycombe Campus. You can either?book for appointments, or walk in. But please remember to bring your ID cards!
Tamsin Grainger: The easiest way to check what is open and our most up to date opening times is on our website. You can also check out the events we have on our What's On page!
Students’ are often asked for their opinion, but what happens with our feedback?
Rachel Cragg: Your feedback is critical to ensure that we know that we are doing the right things in the right way. You provide this through different channels including responding to students surveys, student / staff liaison events and informally through discussion with members of staff, and we have regular meetings between the SU and University colleagues to ensure that there are channels to share issues, concerns and the things that are working well. All of your feedback is shared with relevant colleagues and they will put in place appropriate actions. Ultimately this is reported to the University Education Committee which I chair and here we check that the actions are being taken. I want all students to feel comfortable to share their feedback through informal and formal channels. I look forward to working with the SU and student groups to ensure that we continue to have in place the mechanism for your voice to be heard and responded to.
Tamsin Grainger: Nothing is more important to us than your feedback and we do an awful lot with it when you take the time to provide us with information about your experience. To name just a few, we use Student Reps, our website and social media, surveys and polls, a wide range of Union meetings and forums including Union Council and direct representations made to the sabbatical officers to understand what we can do to help improve your experience. Within the Union we have a dedicated Representation Team, who work with our Advice Centre and other Union departments to support sabbaticals in taking your feedback forward. This might be through discussions between the union and programme teams, service leads or senior University managers. We then make sure that we tell you what we’ve done and what might have changed as a result, either directly, through campaigns such as Bucks Student Wins, or by publicising outcomes in reports, on our website and through social media.
If you could say one thing to students, across all our courses, right now - what would it be?
Rachel Cragg: Keep going! These are challenging times for everyone and I know it is easy to say and not always easy to do. However, we are all part of a University community working together with the same intention … your success. It may not feel like it today, but you are building skills which will be so valuable in the future. Your resilience is being tested and you are responding to that challenge. You are caring for one another and coming together as a team to deliver common goals and outcomes. Working together with compassion and focus will ensure that we get through the challenges together and become stronger as a result. Remember that all of us at Bucks want you to succeed. When you feel like there is a hill to climb and it is perhaps too hard... Reach out to those around you (friends, family, student services, the SU, your tutors) and ask them for a little support or a push... and you offer the same to others.
Tamsin Grainger: We know it’s tough, we feel your frustrations. You owe it to yourselves to push on and make the best of what’s on offer and get through this year – we really think next year will be better.
And speak up! If you think something isn’t right or that the SU, or the uni, could or should be doing more let me know, I promise to do what I can.
But most importantly, if you are having a hard time, or are struggling in anyway, please know that there are people hear who understand that and who want to help – no problem too big or too small, reach out to us and we know we can help.
You can give us your feedback anytime by:
This can be a stressful time for many different reasons and all elements of your wellbeing is The University and SU’s priority. All students have access to online support 24/7 from?TogetherAll, or the?The Multifaith Chaplaincy?is available for chats and support, or our counselling service can help, please email@example.com. Or you can email SUadvice@bucks.ac.uk. Take care of yourselves and stay safe.