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There will be no refund for tuition and exams will not be optional, says UoB’s response to students’ open letter

‘Our absolute priority is that you can complete your degrees within the academic year’

The University of Bristol has responded to an open letter signed by over 1,000 students, which called for a tuition refund and optional exams.

The official uni response, signed by Professor Tansy Jessop, Professor Sarah Purdy and Professor Hugh Brady was understanding of students’ concerns, but maintained that exams for final-years will not be optional as this would undermine academic standards.

Students also won’t receive any compensation for missed teaching time, because the uni says students won’t have actually missed that much tuition.

“Your letter mentions that you only have 5 weeks of taught material for TB2; those students affected by industrial action will have had at least nine weeks of teaching before the summer assessment period, while all the others will have had 12 weeks of teaching,” the response reads.

The uni hopes that tuition will be able to continue next term in an online format, raising many accessibility issues.

While the uni was keen to address such issues in their response to the open letter, it gave no real answers to questions surrounding accessibility.

The letter reads: “We are very aware that some students will have connectivity issues, won’t have laptops, and that on line teaching poses different challenges for equality, diversity and inclusion. We are working to ensure that no student will be disadvantaged by online teaching and assessment.”

The uni also responded to how the current situation has and will continue to affect students’ mental health.

The letter reads: “Student and staff well-being and mental health are our top priorities in these very challenging circumstances.

“In that context, we believe strongly that keeping education and assessment on track is an important source of structure, normality and focus. We also believe that we need to be proportionate, realistic and empathetic so our lecturers are setting alternative assessments which are designed to balance the circumstances with the desire to ensure that you get the opportunity to bring together your knowledge and understanding in conditions which do not exacerbate stress and anxiety.

“All exams will be open book. All will have longer time spans for completion. Your previous outcomes will be calibrated into the overall degree outcome.”

“Most specifically, Education Services are working on a simple COVID-19 system for extenuating circumstances. A second assessment period will be arranged later in the year to take account of the high likelihood of many more COVID-19 extenuating circumstances.”

The letter concludes: “We appreciate that none of this is ideal, and you may be disappointed with our response. We hope that you can see the reasoning for the decisions we are taking, and you are able to trust that we are doing this in what we believe to be your best interests.”