Russell Group Student Union call for the reconsideration of the Russell Group statement

They’ve called for immediate action!

Today, the Students’ Unions from all 24 Russell Group Universities in the UK have released a joint Letter responding to the statement made by the Russell Group last week claiming that ‘no detriment’ or ‘safety net’ policies would not be “necessary or appropriate this year”. The Unions have urged the Russell Group to “take immediate action”.

The Letter begins by acknowledging the “unnecessary anxiety” the Russell Group’s statement rejecting blanket policies caused students and refers to the Unions’ responsibility to address and help resolve issues of this kind.

The Unions allow that this year had been hard for everyone and note that with the latest UK guidance students are back in a similar situation to in March 2020 – “unable to access certain libraries, resources, and study spaces that are necessary for many students to succeed academically”. Responding to the Russell Group’s claim that they are confident that the steps were already taken this year “will ensure all students are given a fair grade”, the Unions point to the fact that the ‘no detriment’ policies designed and implemented last year, aimed to ensure no one was unfairly disadvantaged by the unforeseeable circumstances then unfolding, and that since these unpredictable circumstances are still impacting students “mitigating policies are still necessary”.

The Unions admit their appreciation of the difficulties in designing a safety net policy suitable for all, and the necessity of upholding the “integrity of academic standards” for the Russell Group, but emphasise the ultimate necessity that such policies be designed because “no student should be disadvantaged by the impacts of COVID-19”, and that as far as possible Universities need to work towards providing “a level playing field [for students] to demonstrate their academic achievement.”

The Letter ends with the Unions’ demands, and a final call for Russell Group universities to “implement safety net policies that both apply to all students, no matter their background or course, and that take into account the individual challenges students have faced”.

The Russell Group Students’ Unions have asked for:

  • Universities to “individually and clearly” publish the policies they plan to implement to alleviate the stress of those students who feel they are not being adequately supported.
  • Universities to clearly explain how policies they plan to implement will account for the different needs of students, since no single policy will automatically fulfil the needs of any whole student body. They also call for additional support for students from “different marginalised backgrounds” and insist that any policies introduced be nuanced and take all students into account.
  • Universities to permit students to self certify for mitigations, without needing to supply proof since “students should not have to prove that living through a pandemic has affected them and their studies”.
  • Universities to provide checks and balances that ensure the results of students this year have not been adversely affected by the pandemic by comparing them to previous years or, as the University of York has done “giving less weight to the 2020/21 academic year in the classification calculation” for example.
  • Policies developed by Universities to be considered in coordination with the respective Students’ Unions, since student representation is essential in all these negotiations.

It is reassuring for students across the country to see our Unions working in solidarity, stay tuned for updates of the Russell Group’s response.