Colleagues may be aware that Michelle Donelan, the Westminister Universities Minister, has recently tweeted on the government’s expectation of universities and how they should be delivering education to students during lockdown. The message was one-sided, failing to recognise that we share a common interest in helping our students to succeed, as well as failing to acknowledge the hard work staff have put into preparing for this year and in delivering a high-quality education under difficult circumstances.
I, and other university leaders, have supported our representative body, Universities UK (UUK), in responding to the Minister, and highlighting our concerns about her message.
UUK has told the Minster that her message was a blow to the staff working tirelessly to deliver the best for students and inadvertently undermines student confidence by setting unrealistic and undeliverable expectations about what universities can deliver under the current tight restrictions. UUK continued by saying that universities are doing all they can to deliver learning outcomes and support student progress, whilst recognising that students have legitimate concerns that they are missing out on a fuller university experience.
The Westminster government has (as yet) offered no further financial support for the challenges student face in terms of hardship, digital poverty and mental wellbeing and UUK has urged the government to provide greater support on these issues.
Professor Paul Layzell