Suspend your studies if you don’t have a laptop, Uni of York told its students
‘We will recommend that students suspend their studies and take a leave of absence’
Guidance previously published on the University of York’s website suggested that students without access to a computer or an internet connection should suspend their studies.
Suggesting that it may not be able to help students unable to access IT equipment, the university previously said students who find themselves in that situation should “suspend their studies and take a leave of absence.”
Despite the university offering financial support to help students obtain equipment, the advice was branded as “discrimination against disabled, working class and poorer students.”
Information on the university’s website that has since been updated read: “We understand that some students may not have adequate access to either IT equipment or internet connections that would enable them to engage with their studies remotely. We also know that access to additional IT equipment is extremely difficult to organise given the interruption to production and supply as a result of Covid-19.
“Students can apply to the Student Emergency Support Fund if financial support may help with access to equipment they would otherwise not have access to.
“In the case that we are unable to support students with access to equipment or that students are unable to source it themselves we will recommend that students suspend their studies and take a leave of absence.”
The university has established the “Student Emergency Support Fund,” where students can apply for up to £500 each if they are experiencing unforeseen financial hardships due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The university’s teaching has moved entirely online as a result of the pandemic, with lectures being pre-recorded and accessible via the VLE. Exams may also be replaced by online open exam alternatives.
Despite the offer of financial help, the advice did not go down well. Katharine Macy, an MA student in Early Prehistory and Human Origins told The Tab: “It disgusts me and makes me ashamed of my university – if people don’t have a laptop there’s probably a load of reasons for it and right now is probably not a time they can afford to buy one.”
As a disabled student, Katharine says was fortunate to be able to afford the laptop she needed for her studies – as she’s also a carer, she receives an extra grant. “I have three part time jobs and don’t have any pay guaranteed. It’s discrimination against disabled, working class and poorer students in my eyes.”
A spokesman for the University of York said: “We would like to apologise to any of our students who were concerned about online study guidance issued last week.
“We understand that some students may not have adequate access to either IT equipment or internet connections that would enable them to engage with their studies remotely.
“The University will do everything it can to support students in this situation to ensure they can complete this academic year successfully.
“Support measures include the launch of the Emergency Student Support Fund for students facing unanticipated financial challenges due to Covid-19.
“We would like to stress that leave of absence will only be considered once all other options have been explored.”
The university’s guidelines have since been updated, to reflect that a Leave of Absence is considered only as a last resort. The university can provide financial support with the Emergency Support Fund and IT Support pages can be accessed if students are experiencing technical issues.
They have also made provision within the exceptional circumstances policy for students who are experiencing the impact of Covid-19 and this includes circumstances where reliable internet access is not available, or no suitable laptop, or other required resources, are available.