A statement from the SU officers about Covid and in-person teaching.
First of all, we want to thank everyone at the University of Bath who, over the last six months, have worked incredibly hard to adapt to the demands of the pandemic. Senior Management, Associate Deans, Academic Staff, AHS, professional service teams, cleaners, estates, doctoral students and many, many others have worked tirelessly in fast-paced and challenging circumstances to create a student experience that gives us all the opportunity to safely come together as part of the community at the University of Bath.
The team of elected officers has also been involved every step of the way over this time, with Annie (Education) sitting on the Resilient Curriculum Project Team and Francesco (President) sitting on Student Experience Project Team. Through this involvement we have protected Wednesday afternoons for extra-curricular activity, ensured that Inter Semester Break stays in the calendar, and made sure that Covid-secure facilities are open for all to enjoy.
We have listened carefully to what students have been saying, and engaged you in lobbying the University to ensure that students voices are at the heart of every decision made as we prepared for a safe return to campus in line with government guidelines. All of the spaces used for In-Person Teaching follow Covid-secure guidance, allow two metres social distancing, and require the use of face coverings.
We should be really proud of how the start of the academic year has gone. Away from negative reports in the local and national press about student behaviour, feedback from staff on campus is that students are being responsible on campus and are adapting well to a university experience that is uniquely different to one that has ever been seen before. It is therefore a shame that in the local and national press, students are still used as a scapegoat for the rise in Covid-19 cases.
As Government restrictions once again begin to change, we’re about to enter key time for the University with key decisions about the student experience. With that in mind, we would like to explain external pressures from the University and nationally and what will be done to mitigate the impact. The primary interest of the University and The SU is, and remains, the health and the safety of our community.
Universities across the country are currently looking at whether they should be moving all their Learning & Teaching activities online, with some Universities already having committed to doing so for a set period, and pressure from some staff and trade unions. The University of Bath is also having these discussions and is engaging with stakeholders to decide imminently on what action they should take.
The SU represents the student community here at Bath, and so we engage with students to make sure that what students want is being reflected in any decisions made by the University. Unsurprisingly, our community of 20,000 students has quite wide-ranging, nuanced and often sharply differing views on this subject, each with their own individual experiences, needs and expectations.
We have reached out to members of our Student Academic Advisory Panel, Student Experience Advisory Panel, Liberation Groups, International and Postgraduate Communities, PAL leaders and Peer Mentors to gather the view of the wider student community on this subject to feed into the discussions at the University Resilient Curriculum Committee and University Senate meetings which took place last week. From this, the points we will be continuing to lobby the University on are:
Whilst it is admirable to aim for an equitable experience for all students in terms of how much ‘in-person’ time we will all?get;?we remain focused on the quality of our learning rather than hours.
We don’t believe we should be being asked to come to campus to take part in activities we could have done at home. Students are clear they do not want to get on the bus or walk to campus to watch a lecture on their laptop or any other activity that isn’t interactive. (This may be the first time that as a community we are actually wanting more group projects!)
Within the timetable there should be time outside of lectures for peer-to-peer activity, facilitated by staff wherever possible. Students want to engage with each other on the subjects they are passionate about, to network, debate and meet people.
It is important to create activities that allow for students to do things which allow for us to meet in person OR virtually at the same time. In workplaces across the world, people are interacting as teams with both physical and virtual presence, across time zones and with varied personal circumstances. Our learning activities should help build skills to prepare us for this style of working which may be the ‘new normal’ for students graduating over the coming years.
As an officer team we are faced with competing interests. On one hand, we have students who have significant concerns as we head into a second wave, students who have pre-existing health conditions or disabilities, caring responsibilities, and of course a sizeable community of students who are currently accessing their education at a distance.
On the other, we also have students who understandably do not want to spend their lives 24/7 sitting in their house unable to interact with others, who maybe know few if any other students. Students who would undoubtedly question the value for money element of their course, some do not have a home environment set up for effective remote working, and we already have concerns about the growth of mental health issues amongst our community.
It’s worth also pointing out that the Doctoral Students in our community may be the ones being asked to facilitate in-person activities, labs or workshops, and are also affected by whatever decision is made on this subject but from a different angle.
We stand with these students’ and support them.
Obviously, no one can predict the path of the virus but by making some clear goals and realistic expectations, will make life easier for all. Whatever the University decides to do with regards to virtual learning and teaching, it’s?clear there are going to be students who are disadvantaged or unhappy. This issue will have repercussions far beyond the curriculum.
Our role in The SU will be to continue lobbying and working with the University to do whatever it can to mitigate against these issues to ensure all students feel they are safe and are experiencing an effective and equitable learning experience.
The SU will be working with our student groups and representatives to gather feedback and ensure the student experience is put at the heart of decision-making. If you want to do more or would like to shape what we’re doing, please consider joining our Student Academic Advisory Panel, or our Student Experience Advisory Panel to share your views on your experience , if you are interested email email@example.com or fill out a quick online form .
You can also talk to the officers or Reps about your views.
Franci, Annie, Tom, Dr Fritz and Freya