An Open Letter to the University: An Update

Wednesday 13-01-2021 - 13:23
We have written to the executive leadership team

*Progress Update - 14th January 2021*

No Detriment Policy:

We asked the University to revisit a No Detriment Policy and invite us to the development of which to ensure there is student feedback in those meetings.

The University has since committed that they will be widening the scope of the existing assessment support regulations and will be considering, with us, the no detriment and safety net, highlighting points listed in our letter. They have confirmed though that assessment arrangements will not mirror last year’s No Detriment Framework.


We asked the University for greater clarity, transparency and regularity of communication...

We are now meeting with the University Director of Communications weekly as a team. Lila is also meeting more frequently with them to maintain the momentum of messages going out

Senior leaders of the University have also agreed that they will be doing another set of Town Hall events with JMSU to address students questions and concerns directly. More on that soon!

Student Support Fund:

We asked the University for greater transparency on the increased allocation of the Student Support Fund and to increase the fund where needed.

The University has since announced that they have pledged an extra £650,000 to the Student Support Fund and have also had £300,000 extra funding from the Office for Students - meaning that the University now almost double its existing £1 million in its Fund. You can see more on that here.

Tuition Fee Refunds:

We asked the university to support us in lobbying the government for a reduction in feeds and compensation, asking Universities UK (the representative body of Universities) to ask for a reduction in the financial liability relating to student loan debt, and self-funded students.

Through UUK, the university confirmed that universities are asking the government to consider whether a package of support could be offered to all students, which acknowledges the unavoidable differences in the student experience due to the impact of the pandemic.

Return to Activity:

We asked the university to prioritise bringing back student-led activity both on campus, when and wherever the tier modelling allows.

In December the University approved a paper on Return to Activity by JMSU, where we submitted proposals. Despite willingness and eagerness to bring student groups back, the recent lockdown and changes in guidelines have meant this was not possible. The University has reassured us that they will be ready to react to bringing student activity back once the guidelines allow.

Next Steps:

This is just a progress update so far - we are committed to updating you and we will keep you posted on anymore updates as soon as we are able to.

Thanks so much for your continued support, feedback and patience.

Lila, Tuba, Emily and Megan

*Progress Update - 13th January*

On the 12th of January 2021, we wrote to the University highlighting a number of points on behalf of students that have contacted us in relation to their student experience. The University responded, and this morning at 8:30am 13th January we met with senior leaders where we had an opportunity to discuss the responses the University has put in place already in supporting students; including access to libraries, increased financial hardship support and access to campus where appropriate for students. However, we also understand there are further conversations to be had around minimising the impact on academic achievement, greater usage of communication channels and the role of the University in lobbying for accommodation and tuition fee compensation.

We know students value these measures and we are grateful for the quick response from the University. We look forward to working in partnership and continuing the dialogue.

Please read the letter below.

Dear University Executive Leadership Team,

We write to you on behalf of all LJMU students; as their representatives, they are looking to us for answers. They need help, and they are asking for urgent action.

Balancing student and staff safety amid ever-changing circumstances, short notice and often unclear guidance, whilst trying to deliver business as usual learning is complex. We see the position the university has been placed in and see the hard work that university colleagues continue to undertake in response.

Whilst we recognise the role and responsibilities that wider sector bodies, and ultimately the government, have to play, we believe there are measures we must continue to develop and initiate locally to ensure that students are supported through the continued struggles of the pandemic.

In a year like no other, our students feel forgotten at best, blamed at worst. It is our job to ensure that not only are they heard, but that action is taken to ensure they receive the education, experience and outcomes that they deserve.

We have listed below some recommendations which we urgently ask you to consider. We wish to continue to work in partnership and we know that some of this is already in progress or being considered but given the unique situation we find ourselves in now, we believe that our students need to see greater transparency, clarity, and urgency. We believe these measures will help support students by bridging the impact of the pandemic through all areas of their experience.

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Students are asking for a no detriment policy and safety net highlighting points such as:

  • The University revises the overall grade uplift boundary to 2% (instead of 1% of higher-grade boundary) including Masters programmes
  • Students are offered offer of a single uncapped resit for a first-time failed assignment and a final additional capped resit
  • The ability to discount the lowest module grade
  • The opportunity to apply for a waiver of an assessment item up to 34% of the module mark
  • That students continue to be able to submit personal circumstance applications without evidence
  • That the use of experiential credit be continued throughout this year

We ask the University to invite JMSU into discussions around No Detriment / Student Safety Net policy development allowing student input. Students still face digital poverty. We ask the University to:

  • Maintain access to campus provision for hardware, software and study space.
  • Allocate specific funds to students unable to access the correct equipment to progress in their studies where this is missing off-campus
  • Ensure disabled students have suitable adaptions regarding exams and course work based on their needs (for example, extra time in exams) and ensure tutors follow the student's learning plan given by LJMU's Disability Support team

Fees, Rent and Financial Support

We recognise that LJMU do not own their accommodation buildings and contractual agreements are in place between the landlord and student, however we also know this is an area where students are most significantly impacted. The recent announcement by Unite1 is a welcome step, however students believe that this is not enough. We ask the University to:

  • Support JMSU in lobbying the government for rent rebates for students in any type of student accommodation, be it through private providers, private rented accommodation or any other providers.
  • Lobby partner hall providers to ensure contracts are flexible and allow for students to end their contract early or reduce rent under severe circumstances, such as inability to occupy room for long periods of time through no fault of their own or financial hardship
  • Where students have been unable to return to their accommodation due to Government restrictions, we would ask that you work with the partner accommodation providers in order to ensure that they do all that they can to support students at this time. We believe that it would be appropriate to provide a rent refund that is proportionate to the length of time that students have been forced to remain away from their accommodation e.g. 1/3 rent back or option to end contract and move out for those who are not living there.
  • Offer greater transparency on the increased allocation of hardship funds and bursaries, with a commitment to increase this fund where needed. We would ask these hardship funds to be made available to all LJMU students that have been impacted by the current restrictions, including International students.
  • Students are asking for a reduction in fees or compensation based on their experiences. We ask the university to lobby the government through U.U.K for a reduction in the financial liability relating to student loan debt or via cash grants accommodating self-funded students such as International Students


The pandemic has impacted the mental health and wellbeing of students as a result of reduced social connectivity and periods of isolation. We ask that the University continues to prioritise student support and wellbeing and in particular:

  • That poor mental health and IT issues continue to be a verified reason for Personal Circumstances applications and applying for extended deadlines.
  • Increased financial support and resources to Student Advice and Wellbeing to maximise online drop-in capability and wellbeing provision such as counselling and mental health advice.


Prioritise social activity as it is integral to the university experience and support return to activity from student groups and communities as soon as possible. In the JMSU and LJMU collaborative survey 41% of students expressed their concern about missing out on the student experience. We ask the University:

  • To ensure there is prioritisation given to student-led activity both on campus and in the timetable when tier modelling allows
  • Following JMSU’s Return to Activity Plan submitted in December 2020, to support the return of physical activity for mental and physical health when tier modelling allows


Greater clarity, transparency and regularity of communication as things develop and change, with announcements relating to changes made in advance, so students have time to prepare:

  • The joint LJMU and JMSU survey that was conducted in 2020 confirmed that students place high importance on consistent and timely communications. We ask the university to communicate clearly and regularly with students.
  • Work with JMSU to utilise different channels to communicate messages (social media /microsite/emails)
  • Continue to involve JMSU in changes in policy or practice that impact students

As the Students’ Union, we know you recognise the important role we play for our students, and especially during this pandemic. We also appreciate that some of the recommendations we listed above are already underway.

However, the fact that students are still asking for these things despite the work already invested, indicates to us that either the communication is not clear enough, or that students are not reassured enough, so we have included these to ensure we can help provide some clarity for our students. They deserve further reassurance at such a difficult time.

Of those not already underway, we hope that the university will understand the urgent need for our students, particularly in areas such as fee refunds and the need for reassurance that there will be no detriment to academic outcomes. While these are challenging issues, they are of vital importance.

We look forward to hearing from you and thank you in advance.

Lila, Emily, Megan and Tuba JMSU Executive Officer Team 2020/21

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