SU Statement on Academic Year 2020/21

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The new academic year is fast approaching, and after the email sent around last week, we just wanted to give you a bit of an update on our thoughts.

On Thursday 16th July, returning Undergraduate students will have received an email from Peter Lambert (Pro-Vice Chancellor: Learning & Teaching) as an update from the University regarding the upcoming academic year. The email briefly covered the following topics: learning & teaching, extra-curricular activities, health & wellbeing and our students who won’t be able to come to campus due to health reasons. A copy of this email can be found here.  

While we welcome communication from the University, we recognise that this email was vague and, in many cases, did not provide much reassurance to some of you. This, in part, will hopefully be mitigated when academic departments share their own plans for this year - we are pushing for departments to do this as soon as possible if they haven’t done so already. We will also continue to lobby the University to publish clear, transparent and timely communications to the student body. 

Regarding learning and teaching specifically, the announcement of 4 hours of face-to-face teaching per week may have stood out to you the most. This is something which understandably has prompted varying feedback from the student body, with students from some departments voicing that 4 hours of in-person teaching each week is insufficient.

The SU fully acknowledges that the University’s decision appears to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, which at first glance doesn’t seem to account for nuances between courses. The Officers share the frustration that this causes many students. This is a difficult point of discussion because it involves competing needs: fairness across all departments and the varying demands of those different departments and disciplines. However, while acknowledging the pitfalls of the University’s approach, The SU feels strongly that all students (apart from those who can’t) deserve at least a minimum amount of time on campus each week. In practice, this means that we will, of course, continue to communicate the concerns of our students to the University and will endeavour to lobby for mutually beneficial solutions to ensure fairness to all the students we represent.

The SU believes that it would be detrimental if the University was to take an entirely indiscriminate approach towards all departments - we expect the individual work of the academic departments to clarify how the experience varies between disciplines, including solutions to student’s specific concerns.?This is something we want to keep hearing about, and helping you with, so please get in contact with us, and in the new academic year there will be opportunities to feedback via your academic reps (when they’ve been elected!). 

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic and the practice of social distancing, it is important to us that your health and safety is considered first and foremost. Therefore, as much as we would love to have you all on campus come September, The SU must (and wants to) keep you safe by supporting Government restrictions and the subsequent decision the University has made regarding the maximum capacity of 10% of the student body on campus at any one time. This also means that as an SU, we would fight against any initiative that puts student safety at risk - the University has also committed to this. 

The “New Normal” and our preparations 

As an SU, we have been working tirelessly to ensure the student voice is being heard in the University. The Academic Reps, Officer Team and SU Staff members are part of a wide variety of committees and project teams championing the student voice and making sure that the institutional response to the pandemic leaves no student behind.

This has involved collecting a significant amount of feedback, views and concerns through our ‘New Normal’ survey, as well as the continual effort to adapt and protect the extra-curricular offer that makes the student experience at Bath so special. Each Officer will be updating their respective areas on what this looks like for societies, diversity & support groups, sports, politics & activism, media, volunteering and more. 

Overall, as an officer team, we are acutely aware of the uncertainty students are still facing when looking at the next Academic Year and that there are a lot of questions still unanswered. We will continue to fight for your academic and overall student experience to be as high a standard as possible whilst keeping you safe, and will keep lobbying our University to ensure that students receive transparent communications about their student experience in a timely manner. 

Many thanks, 

Franci, Annie, Freya, Fritz & Tom 

Want to get involved? 

The SU has set up an Academic Advisory Panel where students can participate and discuss proposals as to the delivery of learning in 2020-21. You can express your interest to being a part of this by visiting this page: https://www.thesubath.com/academicreps/rep/advisorypanel/  

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