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President's Update on Meeting with MSP

Find your president's update on supporting students.

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Over the last few weeks, Strath Union’s President, Kayla-Megan Burns, along with the Student Executive, has been asking Strathclyde students for their thoughts and concerns on the way the University of Strathclyde plan to proceed with blended learning and the current support during this pandemic. Yesterday, Kayla met with local MSP and Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead, to discuss all of the problems we currently have at Strathclyde and asked what the government could do to support students through this. 

The MSP has passed the responsibility for these issues back onto the Uni, stating "I don't run universities", leaving your Student Exec and Union with a monumental task as the University has also refused to take responsibility on these matters.

The MSP has made it clear, based on the new restrictions that will be introduced from today (Friday 9th of October) at 6pm, that students can use public transport to commute to and from University as it is considered essential travel. 

Below are the problems presented to MSP Richard Lochhead based on students' feedback. We will continue to update our students on any further communication, comments or feedback we have with the Scottish Government and continue to Stand With Students on the support that is required.


What has been the biggest COVID-related challenge so far at your SA and how have you overcome/dealt with it?

Kayla-Megan Burns, Strath Union President:

“Online learning so far has been our biggest challenge. Recently we polled our students to get their attitudes on online learning vs blended learning for this semester if not this year and we found that approx. 75% of our students wanted an online-only model of learning this semester, with the other 25% favouring blended learning due to being either international students who have already moved here or committed to doing so, 4th year/final year students who want to be able to meet with their groups/advisor for their final year projects, or students whos course involves necessary physical elements such as lab work. The message from our students was overwhelmingly clear – they do not feel comfortable being on campus unnecessarily. Yet when we brought this to the university they refused to budge on the matter at all, basically replying that students didn’t know what they wanted, even though their comments were abundantly clear. So this leaves us in the position where our students are being asked to come back onto campus by the university, they don’t feel safe or comfortable doing so, and also after yesterdays announcements, they aren’t meant to use public transport to get there either! Yet our institution is persisting on this model of “blended learning” and aren’t even willing to make it so that students can “opt-in” to attend if they do want to participate in these activities. 

This is putting everyone at unnecessarily increased risk – students, staff, and the general public, and yet our institution will not budge on this due to the government’s recommendation of the “blended learning model”. The fact that students and staff have pushed back on this approach and yet our institution is planning on going ahead with it regardless makes it abundantly clear that this isn’t about learning to “live with COVID” or the “student experience”, it is purely about the fact that they are worried that they won’t be able to exploit students as much financially if they change their approach, and they’re afraid of the challenge that comes with that.”


What is your biggest COVID-related worry for the rest of the year and what extra support do you need in dealing with it?

Kayla-Megan Burns, Strath Union President:

“My biggest worry for the rest of the year is that institutions and the government will continue to put students at increased risk due to the fear of the financial consequences if they change their model because realistically it’s pretty hard to justify between £9-20k a year to study in your own bedroom when you can get the same service from places like the Open University who has over 30 years experience in this field for £3k.”


So what support would I like to see to deal with this?

Kayla-Megan Burns, Strath Union President:

“I believe the government needs to take a really strong stance here to prevent institutions from exploiting students in this way. Students do deserve to be compensated for the situation that they’ve been put in, be it in the form of rent rebates for halls that they didn’t need to be in, or tuition fee refunds that can’t be justified for them to pay, however, unless this is mandated by the government and proper support is provided for institutions, they just aren’t going to do this to any kind of meaningful extent. So I was just wondering what your thoughts on all of that were minister? Is there any plans to support students and institutions in this way, and what is the justification for putting students in these compromising situations….?”


President's conclusion:

"I was truly disappointed in the minister's response to the issues I raised. There was no willingness to accept any responsibility, acknowledgement of exploitation, or commitment to do better. This truly illustrates that we are in a position where both institutions and the government are being willfully ignorant of students' situations at the minute all in the name of financial gain, which is beyond disgusting. Students deserve to be listened to and protected, just as much as any other group in society. This exploitation cannot go on."

If you have any thoughts or concerns about your time at Strathclyde University then please reach out to your Union, Student Exec or Advice Hub for support.




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