UCL Students’ Union puts Boris Johnson cut-out in ‘FLOP’ exhibition in fight for fee refunds

‘We’d say go check it out, but the chances are you haven’t been able to get on campus much this year’


As part of this year’s Digital Day of Activism, the UCL Students’ Union briefly placed a life-size cut-out of Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the UCL “FLOP” exhibition of “famous failures”, as part of their statement against the university and government’s treatment of students.

The UCL Culture exhibition, which has been up in the Octagon since 2019, shows 13 cases of failure “from ancient societies to modern-day medicine”. However, the SU “thought they could do with a 14th – the Government’s support for students during the pandemic.”

This act of resistance comes as a push in the Students’ Union campaign to refund tuition fees, following their research and report shared with Michelle Donelan MP. They have also joined 39 other Students’ Unions across the country in the Students United Against Fees campaign, with the hashtag #SUAF.

In an interview with the London Tab, the DOC Officer of UCL Students’ Union, Carol, said: “We wanted to make student voices heard by the Government. This year has been awful for so many, and we feel the Government have consistently put students at the back of the queue in their roadmaps to reopening.

“It’s a choice to get pubs open before lecture theatres, the priorities just seem wrong considering we’ve all paid so much to be here.

“There’s no one in Government who knows what it’s like to be completely ripped off by attending university. Most of the people making decisions didn’t pay for uni at all. They just can’t understand the injustice that students are feeling in the way this year has gone.”

SUAF have written a complaint letter to the Prime Minister as a result of these frustrations. The letter was shared with UCL students on the Students’ Union Instagram page on the Digital Day of Action, and can be found here. According to Carol, there is still time to sign the letter before they send it out if you haven’t already.

As well as the complaint letter, the Students’ Union also encouraged people to share fee refund memes and use #SUAF to join the commotion from unis all over the UK. “We had a great response online overall, with students sharing their own personal stories with us, reposting things, expressing their anger.”

They even took the cut-out of Boris on a tour of UCL’s campus, with Carol saying “we showed him all the places students couldn’t get to this year.” The Boris cut-outs have appeared on multiple other university campuses, all giving out one message:

“This year flopped, cheers Boris,” as put by Carol.

Students' Union, FLOP, Carol

UCL was reportedly “a bit surprised to see the Boris cut-out in the Octagon”. However, Carol says that the Students’ Union have been constantly highlighting student dissatisfaction “through our meetings with UCL staff at every level from the Provost down” this year to help students.

“We’ve been saying this for a while now, this year is a scandal and it should be front page news. We’re hoping that the collective voice of hundreds of thousands of students will get the ball rolling.”

Personally, Carol said she felt “gutted” at how the government have “deprioritised” and “ignored” students all year. The Students’ Union research on student wellbeing has even showed that half of students are experiencing worse mental health than before the pandemic.

One group of students who have particularly struggled this year are internationals, who’ve had “three times as many reasons to be angry this year – they’re paying three times as much,” Carol says. “This fight for fee refunds is for everyone. Undergrad, postgrad, international, part-time.”

The overall goal is for the “Government to take responsibility” and acknowledge that “students have been ripped-off and deserve compensation.” Carol says that ultimately, the Students’ Union are “cautiously optimistic about next year” and are “ready to get back and make the most of it as soon as we can.”

Putting Boris Johnson in the FLOP exhibition definitely did make the statement that the Students’ Union was aiming to make on the Digital Day of Activism, but the government and university don’t seem to be budging with tuition fee refunds. Sign the complaint letter and spread the word on social media to get involved and get campaigning for better treatment of students.

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