The good, the bad and the ugly

UMSU releases its submission to the Special Consideration Policy change consultation. 
Molly Willmott, UMSU President

In August this year the University released proposed changes to policy governing Special Consideration. UMSU’s response to the proposed policy changes has been driven by feedback from you and from the data we have collected from students who use our Advocacy Service. When the proposed changes were first released, UMSU scrambled to get your feedback and inject some actual evidence into this process. We were amazed at your reaction – receiving 2108 responses to our survey in under two weeks!

It certainly shows how important this issue is to you all, and in acknowledgement of this – UMSU thinks it essential that students get to see how the feedback you have provided impacts what we say, and to be able to understand a bit more about the process we go through to represent students. We have compiled the data from the survey, consulted with the GSA on their views, and comprehensively set out our arguments in relation to the proposed policy changes. However, more than this – we have also set out a roadmap from improvements in the existing policy, and processes which would address the issues you have been raising with us, via the survey and in hundreds of emails you have sent directly to me (yes I will get back to you all!).

I hope you can find a moment to read the full submission here.

UMSU routinely submits feedback to University Policy consultations and on issues that matter to students, and we don’t always produce such comprehensive documents in response. However, as I have previously flagged (and flagged and flagged), the Special Consideration process is already a cause of much anxiety for students, and the proposed changes would only make that worse.

There were two striking things about the announcement of proposed changes to the policy: one was its timing – just as the Vice Chancellor had told us “Students are at the heart of our University and everything we do must shape and deliver a better experience for them today and into the future”, bang – here’s a proposed policy predicated on pretenders (say that three times fast). The second mind boggling aspect is that there’s no actual data or evidence of this. The University appears to think they need to curtail your access to special consideration, just in case you might be “gaming the system”.

As much as this is about Special Consideration this is about how the University views students and the place of students at the University. The Vice-Chancellor is right to say that students should be at the “heart of our University.” His challenge is to demonstrate the kind of leadership that makes this how we actually feel.

So where to from here?

It is not clear what impact the feedback will have on the proposed changes before they are due to be discussed at the December Academic Board meeting. We will continue to keep you updated on any developments. Either way, we will be there, and we hope to see the changes we vehemently oppose defeated and for the University to commit to making the improvements that the Special Consideration process desperately needs. Regardless of the outcome of this consultation, we will continue to push until we have an accessible, compassionate, best practice special consideration process, worthy of a world class University.

Let’s ask the University to step up and put into effect its promises to deliver “an outstanding student experience for the current and future students across the University.”