The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused major disruptions to students’ educational experience. With drastic changes to teaching, learning and assessment styles, set in the context of uncertain and, in many cases, hugely difficult living and financial situations, the impact of the pandemic has been highly detrimental to many. As a Students’ Union, we share students’ concerns surrounding this impact, and have been raising issues both to the University and at a national level over the course of the last term. We know, however, that there is still much work to be done to ensure our demands are met and genuine support is given to students in hardship.
Please click on the tabs below to read the current position of the UK government on this issue, NUS’ ongoing campaign in response to this, as well as the work we’ve been doing at Warwick to lobby for the necessary changes and our next steps.
NUS’ Student Safety Net campaign
Our core goals at Warwick
What we’ve been doing
The next steps
While many ‘safety net’ measures implemented by universities across the country have been welcomed, easing the difficulties of continuing studies through these unprecedented times, there are still large numbers of students facing financial hardship. As it stands, government advice has been for students to make individual cases to their University/the OIA for financial support; an approach that is neither equitable nor efficient. If students were to take this approach, this would likely produce a highly challenging cost for universities to take on and would necessitate major budgeting cuts that, if made, would inevitably come at the expense of student experience. This decision has been particularly disheartening as we have seen governmental action in Scotland and Northern Ireland to drastically supplement emergency hardship funds, yet this has not been matched in other parts of the UK despite reports that 80% of students across the UK are worried about how they will cope financially in the wake of the pandemic. In taking this stance, therefore, the government is failing to support students in financial hardship in England and Wales by placing pressure on institutions, already facing financial crises due to the impacts of COVID-19, to find this funding independently.
In light of this, Warwick Students’ Union is backing NUS’ Student Safety Net campaign, which focuses on the government's responsibility to provide financial support to students with a nationwide hardship fund, and demands that students should be able to retake the year at no additional cost or have their fees written off.
The NUS campaign demands are:
- Create a nationwide hardship fund
- Provide financial support for education leavers
- Allow students to retake the year at no additional cost
- Ensure debt is reimbursed or fees are written off
It is important that universities listen to the concerns of students, understand the circumstances that they are experiencing and work collectively with the HE sector to demand better for the students who, as NUS VP HE Claire Sosienski Smith rightly says, “are the heart of the higher education sector”.
We want the University of Warwick to meaningfully acknowledge and better support the difficult financial positions many students are in by:
- Putting greater pressure on the government to provide better funding to support students, both in hardship support and fee compromises;
- Cutting any extra hidden costs associated with studying, such as exam resit fees.
Alongside working to represent the student voice in the creation of the ‘safety net’ policies for students at Warwick, as well as other ongoing streams of work, we’ve been building our case for better financial and hardship support for students at Warwick, from the University and the government.
In meetings, we’ve been asking the University to centre student needs around funding and hardship support in their decisions. The government package for universities didn’t involve any new provisions for students experiencing financial distress and didn’t offer any compromises around tuition fees, therefore, we’re asking the University to put more pressure on the Government to do better for students.
We've also been:
- Collaborating with local MPs in Leamington and Coventry so that students and academics are at the core of their government asks. You’ll hear more about those soon!
- Working with NUS on their national campaigns for greater student support. This includes both the ‘Student Safety Net’ campaign discussed above, as well as the ‘Sign, Write, Tell’ campaign focusing on having fee debt waived for healthcare students who, as a result of the pandemic, have joined the NHS frontline.
- Listening to students’ specific concerns and keeping stock of them, building a case of what student experiences and views are at Warwick.
- Lobbying the University to address other non-essential fees and hidden costs to alleviate financial stress for students.
- We're continuing to build the campaign by lobbying for better provision for students both in and outside of meetings, and are awaiting outcomes on some of our asks.
- Keep your eyes peeled for further updates and actions to come!
Existing hardship support
If you are experiencing financial hardship, the University has an existing hardship fund available to students at Warwick, available here. If you have any issues accessing this support, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with the SU Advice Centre.