We held a forum on Zoom on 24 March where you asked us the questions about COVID-19 you’d like UCA to answer. UCA’s responses are below. We will update this page with answers to the questions you submit via our feedback form, so keep checking back.

1)   Extensions and Mitigating Circumstances

How are students expected to complete work without extensions or equipment they need? All units that were due to be delivered and assessed from the period 1 March onwards have been considered by the academic team delivering it in terms of how the learning outcomes will be covered across the year. Learning has been shifted online wherever possible and alternative assessments to cover any missing learning outcomes have been put in place so that students can successfully complete their academic year. Provision has been put in place for each and every unit affected.

Students with individual adverse circumstances have been encouraged to contact us as they can still be awarded extensions in line with normal University policy. However, we don’t feel as though blanket extensions would be in our students’ interest.

With the adjustments our course teams have made to the expected outcomes for each unit, there is no expectation to us specialist equipment during closure. Where it feels appropriate and where it advantages students in relation to a given unit, marking will take into account students’ direction of travel and potential as demonstrated through interim assessment as well as any online assessment undertaken during this period.

Have course leaders been advised by management to tell students to apply for mitigating circumstances? Students are advised to speak to Programme Directors who are allowed to be flexible in the approach to mitigation, but will require the rationale to demonstrate that the circumstances are particular to that student and not solely related to the approved changes in delivery and/or assessment.
If students make a petition/large group complaint would UCA take action and implement a blanket extension? Different courses have different contingency plans that have been carefully worked through to make sure that students’ progression and awards are protected. Extensions impact on a range of factors, including resits and applications for further study/employment. A blanket extension would not be in the best interests of our students. Extensions can be (and have been) implemented at cohort level for individual courses.

2)   Mental Health

What is being put in place to support student mental health in these unprecedented times? We are aware there is a lot of uncertainty due to the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of the ongoing situation, we have been required to close our face-to-face services and instead move to online support. This includes our Counselling Service and we are currently considering how best to deliver this service to you. It is likely this will mean offering telephone/online/e-counselling, wherever possible to students.

If you are already engaged with counselling, our counsellors will be in touch with you shortly to rearrange any face-to-face appointments and agree on how they can work with you over the coming weeks.

If you are wishing to access the Counselling Service, please take time to read the information on the website https://www.uca.ac.uk/student-services/counselling/ and then download the Counselling Request form to request an assessment.

We do need to let you know that we are experiencing high demand so we may not be able to offer you an appointment immediately. If you need urgent mental health support, please contact your GP/doctor, or call NHS 111. In an emergency, call 999 or go to your nearest hospital’s Accident & Emergency Department (A&E). You can find more information on our Medical Emergency page.

If you are seeking immediate emotional support, you may wish to consider contacting the Samaritans on 116 123 or SHOUT by texting Shout to 85258.

What is happening with students that are not making contact online? Every effort is being made to communicate with and engage with our students to ensure that they can participate in online learning. Where this is proving difficult for individual students, staff are supporting these on a case-by-case basis.

3)   Assessment

Some Universities have given students a grade based on their previous work. If students feel as though they should have gained a higher grade, are they able to evidence further work so that a higher grade is achieved. Is this something UCA could implement? We are using previous work as part of the assessment of learning wherever appropriate (i.e. supports specific learning outcomes). This has formed part of the contingency planning each course has developed to best support its students’ achievement in their current units.
Some work simply cannot be assessed online. The work needs to be seen and assessed in person. How can you guarantee that students are being assessed fairly online when the project was not made to be for online purposes? We are using the learning outcomes, previous assessments and skills and creativity demonstrated in work in progress as well as online digital presentation of work to assess overall grades. Programme Directors have been advised to look for reasonable evidence of achievement, rather than penalising on basis of finish. All assessment will still be marked according to our university procedures and externally verified by external examiners on each course.
Will there be a blanket policy from UCA on how assessment will be taking place?

What does this mean for appeals and complaints?

The assessment strategy varies from course to course because the learning outcomes vary from course to course. However, there are blanket changes to rules that enables flexibility in each course to focus on achievement of learning outcomes through whatever evidence is available. Appeals and complaints will be accepted as normal.

4)   Finances

Students needed to use machinery/equipment on campus to complete work but are now unable too. What should they do if they cannot afford to buy what they need to complete their work? The University is able to offer support to students experiencing financial hardship due to the impact of the Covid-19 virus through its Financial Assistance Fund for home students studying at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and who are in receipt of government student funding, e.g. student maintenance loan or postgraduate loan. The fund does have priority groups that it seeks to support. Further information and application forms can be found here.
What is UCA doing to support students financially that have lost their jobs during this pandemic? The Minister of State for Universities has confirmed that the Student Loans Company is planning to make Term 3 tuition fee payments as scheduled and that students will continue to receive maintenance payments on the scheduled dates whether or not campuses are closed, or learning has moved online.

If your paid employment has been affected by COVID19 pandemic, you may find you and your employer are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The Government has set-up the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help pay staff wages and keep people in employment.  If you and your employer both agree, your employer might be able to keep you on the payroll if they’re unable to operate or have no work for you to do because of coronavirus (COVID-19). This is known as being ‘on furlough’.  The scheme is due to cover a period of 3 month from 1 March 2020 and it expected to be up and running by the end of April. Find out more about the scheme and if you could be covered www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Full guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

The University is able to offer support to students experiencing financial hardship due to the impact of the Covid-19 virus through it Financial Assistance Fund for home students studying at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and who are in receipt of government student funding, e.g. student maintenance loan or postgraduate loan. The fund does have priority groups that it seeks to support. Further information and application forms can be found here.

Additionally, students from overseas are also able to access some support through the International and EU Student Fund.

Both funds offer non repayable grants to help with day to day costs such as rent, food, and course costs.

They cannot assist with fees, however. Students can get in touch with their campus Specialist Adviser or download the forms from the website.

Students feel as though they are due a refund of some sort as they are not getting the full experience which they are paying for. Could a partial refund be issued? The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented global situation. UCA, in common with organisations worldwide, is considering all aspects of the pandemic and there is a lot to think about and organise. This is one area of our work where we will be guided by government and other agencies outside the institution. The sector regulator for higher education is considering all angles of the situation from the point of view of students and they will be in contact with universities and colleges on a range of matters as soon as they are able.

We will update students with developments as things become clearer for all of us. In the meantime, please stay well and look after those who are important to you. Updates will be sent by email to your UCA email address and posted to the alerts page on our website https://www.uca.ac.uk/alerts/

Should the price of the fees be the same amount for international students if they are not receiving full use of workshops, equipment etc? The differential between home and international fees reflects the fact that for many years’ universities received subsidies from taxpayers residing in the UK. It wouldn’t be appropriate to change the fee level at this point in time.

5)   Methods of communication

Are there other methods of communication to deliver teaching and tutorials? Some students find video calls extremely difficult or may not have the equipment needed to receive/make calls. Where students are having issues with the use of technology, they should speak to their Programme Director to make them aware. We have instigated various case-by-case solutions to support students in online learning where we’ve been able to already.

Equally, those students who are finding video calls difficult should let their tutor and/or Programme Director know, to see if there are any local workarounds that can be developed to better support individual learning. Communicating online is obviously very different to being able to talk to people in person, but solutions could for example include written correspondence (via email or chat), a phone call (or audio only conversation online), as well as managing the amount of time spent online using video. For those struggling with this format of delivery, we do encourage students to have conversations with their tutors and Programme Directors to make them aware and so they are able to better support.

Students feel as though emails generated are for the protection/reassurance of staff and not students. What measures are UCA going to take to ensure students are protected? Throughout this fast-moving situation, protecting and reassuring both students and staff has been a priority. We implemented a range of measures to protect students, which included replacing face-to-face teaching with online provision, providing visa advice for oversees students, and waiving rent for students who wished to move out of University accommodation. We have also increased the money available through our student hardship fund. We will continue to respond to the changing landscape by formulating plans to protect our student’s wellbeing.

6)   Accommodation

Do rent breaks (as set out by the Government) apply to students? Any students remaining in halls but who are experiencing financial difficulties should speak to the accommodation office. Rent will not be waived (as they are still resident) but a holiday period can be granted, and a payment plan set up once the lockdown is lifted.
What is happening with payments for students that are living in Halls? Students that remain in halls are paying rent. Students who were re-called back to their country of origin by their governments are only being charged up until the day they left.For those students who have gone home but are planning to return are being given a rent ‘holiday’ until the point that they move back in. If students do not return, they will not be charged.