With such a large student population here in Manchester Gorton, I wanted to share the latest guidance on both teaching and learning, as well as rent and living arrangements, for students at Manchester Met and the University of Manchester. As we continue to navigate these difficult and uncertain circumstances, it is important that all students know there is support available, and that as your local MP, I will continue to be in contact with both universities to ensure they are doing all they can to keep students informed and reassured.
Update from Manchester Metropolitan University
The Government’s guidance is that teaching and learning support will be delivered entirely online until at least mid-February for all subjects except a specific number of exceptions.
At Manchester Metropolitan this applies to the following, which have started face-to-face activity in degree programmes from 6 January:
- The School of Teacher Education and Professional Development
- The Department of Health Professions, except for Nutritional and Foundation Year students which will remain online
- The Department of Nursing
- The Department of Social Care and Social Work, except for Integrated Social Care and Foundation Year students which will remain online
For all other programmes, teaching started on 11 January, initially delivered entirely online. We are committed to ensuring no student is disadvantaged by COVID-19 and all can be fairly assessed and progress to the next stage of their course or complete it. To support this and protect the quality and standard of our students’ degrees, we will reintroduce a ‘no detriment’ policy
- For Levels 3, 4 and 5 students (typically Foundation programmes and Years 1 and 2 of a Bachelor’s degree), we will base student progression between years of study on achievement of an average mark of 40 across the level as a whole, even if it includes one failed unit. Students must engage fully with all assessments across the year to be eligible for progression.
- For Levels 6 and 7 students (final component of a Bachelor’s degree and postgraduate qualifications), we are currently finalising our ‘no detriment’ approach for final year and Taught Postgraduate students and will communicate this to students by the end of January.
- for University Owned Halls
For students NOT USING their University-owned accommodation – In light of the recent Government announcement, we will be introducing an additional rent reduction for students who have University-owned accommodation. This additional reduction is being given because of the Government’s request that students do not return to campus until the start of face-to-face activity, and therefore do not move back into their accommodation.
Taken together with the rent reduction announced before the national lockdown, we will be issuing a rent reduction to cover the period from Monday 4 January until at least mid-February. We will automatically extend this additional reduction in line with Government return to campus instructions, as these are announced, provided students do not return to their accommodation.
We will not be collecting any further rent money until the Government guidance changes and students can return to campus.
For students USING University accommodation – We are aware that some students are already back in University-owned accommodation, many of whom followed the Government’s request to return for priority courses identified for face-to-face teaching.
For students using their accommodation we will apply the rent reduction announced before the national lockdown, but the further additional rent reduction outlined above will not apply. We will collect rent (reduced by the amounts previously announced) from all students who are using their accommodation, although the rent collection date will be deferred until Monday 15 February.
- for non-University Owned Halls
The University is only able to apply rent reductions on those properties we own. We are aware students live in a wide range of other private accommodation and we will continue to lobby those landlords to ask them to consider whether they can provide similar financial support.
We are pleased to see that students in accommodation owned by Unite will receive a rent reduction from their landlord. We will continue to lobby other providers to offer similar support.
Update from The University of Manchester
Teaching and learning
All teaching and assessment except for a few exempt courses will now be online. This will be reviewed by government in mid-February, but will likely remain in place until the end of March. Some exemptions are described in our message last week and in government information. Unless you have already been advised that you are required on campus for accreditation reasons or scheduled on-campus assessments, or you have specific personal circumstances you should not return to University. If you are travelling from outside the UK and are able to change your travel plans, you should do so immediately.
On-campus COVID testing is available to all students, and those who are returning should also take a test before travelling, if possible.
Students who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not travel, even if you have been advised that you are required on-campus for essential activities. You should stay at home and contact your programme team to discuss your options and the support that we can offer to you.
If you have stayed over the Christmas period, if you have already returned or if you cannot alter your travel plans, please be assured that you will be supported and should now stay on campus. Study areas and the Library will remain open.
Assessments for taught students
Unless you are required on campus for your assessments for accreditation purposes, the majority of you will be taking your January assessments online. We know that this may present you with a number of challenges and have already made additions to our Mitigating Circumstances processes to take circumstances such as IT failure, into account.
Steps will be taken for all students, across all programmes to minimise the academic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as part of our robust examination board processes.
Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs) and staff working on campus
Under the new restrictions, you can only leave home for work where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home. These legal restrictions will apply to all University staff and PGRs whether involved in teaching, research or professional services. The only exceptions are:
- Researchers (including PGRs) who require access to specialist facilities for their work. We have updated our guidance on research involving direct/in-person contact with human research participants.
- Staff required to attend the campus to deliver in-person teaching and assessments on essential programmes – mainly in the medical school and health sciences.
- Professional Services staff who are providing vital frontline services.
On-campus COVID testing is available to all staff and PGRs who may be required to work on campus. If you are required to be on campus it is critical that you continue to observe COVID safety rules that are in place. This includes holding meetings online and following instructions for moving around and using buildings. You must report if you test positive or are self-isolating.
As we face this major challenge it is very important that we support each other. We are stepping up our support services for staff and students, but please also continue to stay in touch with your friends to keep checking that they are OK.
Rent reduction and action to improve student accommodation
The University, working together with the Students’ Union, has agreed to give all students in University halls of residences a reduction for semester 1 (Sept 2020 – 31 Jan 2021) totalling 30%. This will be provided irrespective of whether students stay in halls over the holiday period or not.
The increase from the previously announced two-week rent reduction, announced in an accommodation pledge last week (16 Nov), follows detailed discussions between the University, Students’ Union officers and elected student representatives from halls of residence. It acknowledges that the limited availability of some facilities due to national COVID-19 restrictions has had an impact on the student experience and the ongoing uncertainty about the return to campus arrangements in January.
The meetings also agreed to accelerate, wherever possible, action in other key areas, including:
- opening up more social and study spaces in halls, where this can be done in line with COVID-19 guidance;
- working together to develop a behaviour pledge, setting out expectations of student conduct in halls of residence during the pandemic;
- improvements in the reporting, tracking and resolution of maintenance issues;
- working together to enhance safety and security in halls of residence.
These actions, which will now become part of the accommodation pledge, will deliver improvements in student experience in our halls of residence, many of which will be put in place rapidly, though some will take a bit more time.
Further regular meetings will be taking place between the University and elected student representatives from halls of residence. The University will be unable to provide further reductions, but students can decide to break their accommodation contract without financial penalty.
The rent reduction will be applied to direct debit payments in January 2021. Students who have paid for accommodation for the whole year will get a refund.
The offer of a 30% rent reduction was negotiated by the Students’ Union and endorsed by elected student representatives from across all halls of residence, many of whom had consulted other residents, in discussions with our Students’ Union officers. A majority (more than 90%) supported the proposal.