We wanted to update you on progress we have made since we last posted about our referendum on student fees.
As many of you may have seen, the University – through the Vice Chancellor – responded to our referendum. We were disappointed that the University is continuing to only look at refunds and rebates on a case-by-case basis and although we understand the reasons for this, it does not make this position any easier.
We have responded to the Vice Chancellor’s statement here.
Since the referendum we have had a few meetings with the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) of the University to discuss the fees situation and two of these included the referendum organiser Jack Fitzsimons. We have also very recently had a meeting with the University’s director of finance where we asked a number of questions about how money was spent, how fees were decided – specifically on the cost of international fees – and where else the University had spent money this year.
We have had confirmation from the University that they will be releasing a fee breakdown for AY 2019/20 and we have also asked them to release some headline figures for AY 2020/21 about spending, including the total cost of the SLT.
As laid out in our 5-point plan, it’s not just about Essex. So, we wrote a letter to the government and asked other Students’ Unions to sign it – so far we’ve had around 22 Students’ Unions support and sign our letter – and the letter talks about:
- Increasing funding support for students
- 50% reduction in fees for this year to be paid by central government
- Supporting international students financially
- Increasing NHS Mental Health funding
- Legislating to allow students to break accommodation contracts, including private accommodation
- Removing grade inflation analysis during the pandemic
We have also been working on a template that we can share with you to write to your MP, both at Essex and at home, which we would love for you to share with friends and family so they can write to their MP as well; that demands that students be considered during this pandemic and that fee rebates and other support is given by the government.
We have also been working with the University to ensure that your University accommodation contract is fair. We recommend that you use this link to notify the University that you will be pausing your contract if you are in University owned accommodation.
We will also be writing a letter that will be from the Students’ Union to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan about the lack of clarity about what students should be doing – especially with regards to the physical return to University.
So, that's what we've been working on since the referendum to act on behalf of the thousands of our members that voted.
We hope to be able to provide further, and more substantial updates in the coming weeks and months and will be answering questions about our work at Student Parliament on January 26th.
Molly (SU President) and Mark (VP Education), on behalf of the Students' Union Sabbatical Officer team