Student campaign demands ‘transparency’ on decision to cancel study abroad

Students are desperate to save their years abroad

Students at the University of Edinburgh have launched a campaign demanding for transparency on reasons for the cancellation of overseas placements.

Earlier this week, the Uni announced that all study abroad due to begin in September will no longer be going ahead, citing the health and safety of students as its “primary concern”. This includes all semester exchanges, years abroad, overseas work placements, field trips and field work that were due to take place.

The campaign calls for “transparency” on the reasons behind the cancellation of overseas placements

The campaign message reads: “The University of Edinburgh has recently cancelled overseas placements for hundreds of its students, citing so-called “Government travel advice”, and despite the fact that most of those placements are not due to start for another three months, in countries which are already starting to ease their lockdown restrictions.

“With many European countries already starting to make plans to welcome tourists to their shores from the start of next month, it is clearly far too early to reach such a compromising decision, which not only robs many students of their only chance to study abroad, but also affects the ability of those students to perform satisfactorily at Honours level.

“We petition the University of Edinburgh to provide transparency on the reasons for which they have cancelled these placements, and on the advice which they have followed to reach this blanket decision. There is still enough time to reverse this decision and ensure that so many students are able to go on the year abroad which they deserve and need.”

Students are upset the decision was reached “without us being involved in the conversation”

The second year student behind the campaign, Toby Gay, told The Edinburgh Tab: “There’s a large group of students who are appalled by the way the University have prematurely and unilaterally cancelled their semester 1 exchanges starting in September.

“The fact that this decision was reached without us being involved in the conversation, despite the fact that it is our money, health and degrees on the line, prompted me to start an online petition to demand that the university provide some transparency on their rationale and the government advice which they have followed.

“We really believe the University has mistreated us here. Those students whose host universities have accepted them should make the decision whether they go or not. For instance, my host university in Barcelona sent me a nomination confirmation and list of modules to choose from just two days before the exchange was cancelled.

“The host university of a coursemate of mine doesn’t accept single semester exchanges so his entire year abroad is under threat and, therefore (as his degree requires 30 weeks in the target country), so is his degree. Spain is planning to welcome tourists to their shores as early as next month, so there is little chance that students will be barred from entering the country come September.

“We just really want to save our year abroad”.

“We just really want to save our year abroad”

Toby added: “I’m aware that the campaign may seem unfair for those students who now can’t, or don’t want to, go abroad in light of the health crisis, if the decision were to come down to deciding for ourselves whether to pursue our studies abroad or remain in Edinburgh.

“But there is still enough time to arrange alternative placements for those people who have been told by their target universities that they can no longer attend, or those students with underlying health issues who would potentially be put at risk.”

At present, placements due to start in semester 2 are still to go ahead, with the Uni monitoring the situation closely. Those who were due to go abroad during semester 1 will be contacted by their schools who will provide them with further advice and information on what the cancellation means for their studies and degree.

The statement on the University website can be found following this link and the campaign page can be accessed here.