Cardiff Uni language students write open letter to VC to stop year abroad cancellations

The university has offered a virtual year abroad ‘experience’ instead

Cardiff University language students have written an open letter to Vice-Chancellor, Colin Riordan, regarding their year abroad which is “in jeopardy” due to the ongoing pandemic. Students have been told that the university will not endorse travelling or year abroad placements to countries where the FCO advise against travel.

In response to this, language students have written a letter to the VC arguing that a year abroad is “essential travel” as it is a mandatory aspect of their respective degrees. The letter has amassed over one hundred and fifty signatures since Friday when it was shared on the Facebook group ‘Overheard at Cardiff University’.

Sophie Anderson, a second year French and German student who is meant to be leaving for her year abroad, told The Cardiff Tab: “The reason we’re angry is because it seems more of an issue with insurance (for which the uni could just do more research and spend a little bit more money) to get us out there”.

The letter covers the issue of insurance, and the ways in which this may have contributed towards the University’s decision. It also argues that these issues have the potential to create a “socio-economic divide”.

It discusses this in reference to the fact that some students have found a separate insurance company that will cover the travel, so they can participate in their year abroad without the university.

The letter states: “If the university does not wish to make an effort to purchase insurance so that all students are able to make informed and calculated decisions without economic obstacles, we should at least be given our grant so that we have the means to make these decisions ourselves.”

It is questioned within the letter why Cardiff students are not receiving the same treatment as students of other universities, such as Oxford and Durham, who are still being allowed to study abroad. Sophie added that: “It’s not as if we’re going for a jolly. We’re going to live there”.

Whilst the situation is unclear, students have been left to assume that without insurance they will not be granted their Erasmus grants. Students who choose to study abroad at their host universities “against FCO advice” have been informed that they won’t be covered by their insurance policy, and won’t get the credits or be enrolled on the relevant modules. This means their year will not count.

An email sent to MLANG students.

Bethan Ostrer, a third year Modern languages and translation student, wrote the letter to Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor. She told The Cardiff Tab that “writing this letter steamed from the pure confusion of the fact that if I go abroad to my chosen country and do my placement which my hosts wants me to do, it won’t count.”

While the university is offering a ‘virtual’ year abroad experience, Bethan told The Cardiff Tab: “this year abroad is vital for us reaching our full potential”. She added, “we just want the opportunity to make our own decision”.

A Cardiff University spokesperson stated: “We are aware of the Open Letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor. Given the number of requests, it’s important that we take time to consider them in detail. We will respond to the letter shortly.”

They added: “Whilst we understand, sympathise and share their frustration it’s important to stress that it’s safety that is at the heart of our decision making.

“We are constantly monitoring and reacting to changing circumstances as quickly and carefully as we can

“We are listening to the concerns of our students and are in the process of seeking external legal advice in relation to the requirements imposed by the UK Government Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which guides our decision making.

“We will continue to communicate fully with all students affected. It remains a constantly changing picture and we will continue to update with information as soon as we can.

“Students can also discuss their individual circumstances with their year abroad coordinator in their academic School, and our Global Opportunities Team.”

The university concluded by saying: “We fully appreciate how difficult and stressful this situation is, but we are doing everything possible to try and provide as safe and suitable outcome as possible.”

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