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Open letter to parents and carers from our President and Vice-Chancellor

Dear parents and carers 

With the latest national lockdown impacting everyone UK, I am writing to update you on the steps we are taking to ensure that no student is disadvantaged because of this pandemic. Coronavirus is clearly causing disruption in many parts of a ‘normal student experience’ and I wanted to outline our current support on the key areas that I know will be of concern to you: living and accommodation, educational support and student finances.   

As a parent myself, I can empathise with you – this is a really difficult time for you as well as your son or daughter. Thank you for the patience and resilience you have shown.  

First of all, we are committed to protecting students’ success and so we have developed an Educational Safeguard policy to protect campus-based students’ educational progression, which includes: uncapping of reassessments, extended conditions for mitigating circumstances and the opportunity to defer January/May assessments. 

Secondly, we understand the disruption which the latest national lockdown has created for student accommodation arrangements. This is something we are actively reviewing and will continue to do so as the situation develops in the coming weeks. It is important that our response is consistent with Government advice, and is fair to all our students, who live in very different accommodation settings with varying contractual agreements. However we also recognise the current anxiety and distress this issue is causing some of our students, and their wellbeing must come first.  

We were the first UK University to offer a range of flexible accommodation contracts at the start of the academic year. We now wish to make the following commitments:  

  • We will lobby Universities UK (UUK) and Government to ensure that there is a fair outcome for all students and universities who have been financially impacted by the recent lockdown. 
  • Accommodation rebates will be provided to students living in our University owned accommodation. The exact amount of this rebate will be calculated in March, once it is possible to assess the full impact of the current national lockdown.  
  • The rebate will be available upon request to all students in University-owned accommodation studying non-exempted courses and who have not made any use of their accommodation since the commencement of the national lockdown. 
  • The rebates will be processed in the May rent payment instalment. Please note that the rent payment instalment due in January is still payable.
  • We will work with our Students’ Union to lobby private accommodation providers and landlords to offer comparable levels of rent rebate. 
  • Our COVID hardship fund is available to be accessed by students struggling to make ends meet during this time of national crisis. 

Thirdly, through a combination of specific University funds and the generosity of our alumni and donors, through our Philanthropy, Alumni, and Community Engagement Team, over £200,000 has been made available to financially support students specifically affected by COVID-19 in this academic year. 

We also have a dedicated COVID-19 response team in place, with support for students available 24/7 from our University owned accommodation and Security. Details about support services, as well as activities for students to connect with their peers, can be found in our Life in Lockdown programme

Our lateral flow testing programme continues for staff and students, helping to reduce the spread of the virus and keep our campus safe. 

For more details about how we are supporting students during the pandemic please visit our website. 

I hope you are keeping well during this challenging time. 

Regards 

Nishan Canagarajah
President and Vice-Chancellor 

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