Important update: Assessment arrangements and Financial Support
In our message to all students earlier this week we signalled that we would be providing further information about our new and ongoing support arrangements as the pandemic continues to affect all of our lives.
We heard the Prime Minister’s announcement at the same time as everyone else on Monday 4 January and we have been waiting for the more detailed guidance from the Department for Education about how this affects universities and different types of students – which was finally published yesterday. Throughout the week we have been working through the concerns and queries that students have raised and we have been listening to your feedback.
With regard to the accommodation payments for University-operated accommodation, the University’s first priority is always for student safety and wellbeing, ensuring that the appropriate support is given to students arriving into their accommodation and to those who are remaining in their accommodation with us. We are currently reviewing our position on accommodation payments and we will contact all students in University accommodation directly with further updates as soon as they are available.
Over the coming weeks we will continue to provide further updates to students on specific issues. We will also be communicating directly to PGR students with an update on how these issues affect you from the University Graduate School. Many of these are complex issues and we would ask that you are patient in waiting for a response as we develop plans and solutions.
At the end of this week we are providing an update on two specific issues that we highlighted in our previous communication:
- Assessment arrangements for students.
- Financial support for students.
Assessment arrangements for students in the current academic year
We understand and have been listening to the many concerns that students have raised about the challenges of assessments and examinations during these current circumstances. Our aim, has always been to ensure that as many students as possible can continue to progress with their education and then graduate successfully with a degree qualification that reflects their abilities and will remain credible and respected into the future.
The University’s Senior Education Team have developed additional information for all UG and PGT students about assessments in the current academic year.
As we look ahead we are revisiting all the policies we had in place for continuing and graduating cohorts last year (both UG and PGT) and gaining a student perspective through The Guild of Students. We are considering carefully whether we need to take further steps in the academic interest of all current and future students and we are doing this work now and over the coming weeks as more information becomes available.
Financial Support for Students
We are all very aware of the many challenges being faced by students arising from the pandemic. These include lost opportunities for part-time work, changes in family circumstances and a variety of additional costs. In this academic year the University will make available more than £10 million in student financial support – that being awards that directly benefit and are directly paid to students.
More than 4,500 individual students will benefit from the Chamberlain Award this year – sharing more than £8.5 million. These awards support some of our most financially disadvantaged students: from low income households, under-represented groups and Care Leavers. If you have been notified that you are eligible to receive a Chamberlain Award then the first instalments are due to be paid by the end of January.
We have also increased the value of our existing Student Support Fund to £1 million – and this is open to applications from all students. The Student Support Fund is a hardship fund - meaning that it is intended to support students who are experiencing genuine financial difficulties.
The Enhanced Student Support Fund has launched today, and we have improved this by not only increasing the value of the fund but also by revising the application criteria in direct response to the circumstances of the pandemic.
Students who have previously applied to the fund this year (or who have applications in progress) will be re-assessed under the new criteria automatically (so you do not have to reapply). All other students experiencing financial challenges this year are encouraged to apply. There is still an application process that you will have to go through - and this is to ensure that the funds are distributed through a fair and transparent process to those who need the most support.
More information, advice on the application process, and the application form are available on the Student Support Fund intranet page.
As a further part of our financial support we had previously announced that the University would assist international students returning to the UK with the additional costs of the new Test To Release Scheme. This allows international travellers to reduce their period of self-isolation and, for students, enables you to resume your studies and access to campus facilities more quickly. The application process to receive your reimbursement of the cost of the test is now open, and you can apply for a refund up to a maximum £120.00. You can start your application on our website.
Over the coming months we will provide ongoing communications to all students through these special announcements and our regular fortnightly bulletin. We do understand the difficulties that the current national lockdown presents and recognise the importance of the support that we all give to each other.
Stay safe, stay at home if you can, and take good care.
Best Wishes from all of us at the University of Birmingham.