Bristol Uni rejects student demands for safety net policy

Over 2,200 students have signed a petition

Bristol Uni has decided not to implement a safety net policy following the announcement of a third national lockdown.

In an email to all students sent very late in the day, the university wrote that they supported the Russell Group position, which is that a safety net is “unnecessary”. Bristol University management say they are “confident” in their existing measures. but will be consulting with student groups about possible further measures.

However, any further measures will only be implemented after the assessment period: “We expect to update you on the work of the task force and on any substantive outcomes after the January assessment period, so please bear with us in the meantime.”

At the time of publication, a petition for Bristol to implement a safety net policy has reached over 2,200 signatures.

Yesterday, the chairs of every single Bristol SU network wrote to Pro Vice Chancellor for Education, Professor Tansy Jessop, calling for a safety net policy. The student leaders described it is “incomprehensible” that they haven’t already implemented the policy, and that it is “unbefitting of an institution that claims to ‘place wellbeing at the heart of the University'”.

Leeds Beckett and Greenwich have already announced safety net policies at their institutions in light of the lockdown. York is the only Russel Group university that has implemented a safety net so far, and Southampton has taken the same position as Bristol.

The email sent to students at 7:41pm

The university also said that they have “set up a joint task force with SU representatives to work through appropriate mitigations”. Olivier Levy, Chair of the Wellbeing Network, told The Bristol Tab that on Tuesday, Bristol SU education officers Leah Martindale (PG) and David Ion (UG), as well as the Education Network committee will be meeting with Prof Jessop, Mark Allinson, Paula Coonerty, and other educational leaders at Bristol Uni.

The letter from the chairs of every Bristol SU network details some of the challenges students are facing in the Covid lockdown, saying they have had “catastrophic effects on the wellbeing of students.”

They wrote: “Amidst the closure of libraries, the disparities between online and in-person teaching, and the constant upheaval of our daily lives and routines, among other factors, we cannot be expected to deliver the academic performance demanded of us in normal circumstances.

“These times might be unprecedented, but our demands for academic mitigations are not.”

The letter from the network chairs to PVC Eduction Tansy Jessop

Students have reacted strongly to the news, with many expressing outrage at the university’s decision. Olivia, a second year politics and social policy student voiced her concerns about the mental health effect of this decision: “As someone who’s just starting up uni again after a year of being away on medical leave, I’m terrified of how this next term is going to affect me if there’s no safety net.”

Alice, second year history, told The Bristol Tab: “The university is out of touch – the fact they can’t reassure us as students we have full academic support during a pandemic that has impacted everyone in unquantifiable ways just isn’t good enough.”

Mia, a third year psychology student, said: “I’m really disappointed that we’ve been given no support with education, a whole year online, as well as no support financially.”

Bethany, a third year chemistry student, added: “I feel like university students have been left in the dark, I wish there was more clarity, and I’m disappointed there’s no safety net.”

Sabrina, a third year English student expressed outrage at the way students have been treated by government: “Whilst special consideration has rightfully been given to A-level and GCSE students, university students have yet again been ignored. The university must take our concerns seriously and implement a safety net to protect their students and our futures.”

Pieter, a second year politics and social policy student, said: “It looks as if the university management could do with a safety net themselves. If I wrote an essay as poor as that email, I don’t think I’d pass.

“It’s completely contradictory to argue that you recognise the impact of the lockdown but that you won’t be implementing any measures until after the exam period that falls in that lockdown. It’s a cowardly response that continues to break down the relationship between the university and its students.”

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Petition for a Bristol Uni ‘safety net’ surpasses 2000 signatures

Opinion: This isn’t the Bristol Uni experience I was promised, and I have had enough

• Confirmed: Teaching at Bristol Uni will be moved online until mid-February