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We’re only 6 days into 2021 and already so much has happened, it’s been a chaotic beginning to say the least!

I want to start by saying that we, the sabbatical officers, are listening, we understand the immense issues you’re facing and we’re committed to make it easier for you to succeed at UCL.

We were all hopeful that the ending of 2020 would lead to a better 2021, that we could regain a sense of normalcy, see our friends and family again, and finally have a face-to-face seminar! But unfortunately that’s not the case so far.

On the first of January, a day that I would normally spend eating too much food and watching too much Netflix, I was invited to an emergency meeting of UCL’s Senior Management Team. We discussed the severity of the situation in the UK with the rising COVID cases, the overwhelming of the NHS and the government guidance for universities published on the 30th December. I talked about the need for clear, transparent communication with students, the need for honesty and empathy and how such a move would further increase the numbers of students calling for tuition fee refunds and a no detriment policy. Once it was decided that UCL would pause all face-to-face teaching, with some courses exempt, I helped pull together the message that was sent to you the next day. 

On Monday, all of the sabbs met to talk about Tier 4, UCL’s announcement and what we should be doing going forward. Later that day, Boris Johnson announced that the entire country would be going into lockdown- for the second time this academic year.

On Tuesday I was again invited to UCL’s SMT meeting. I raised the clear need for a grade safety net, on the basis that current mitigations don’t address all of the issues facing students, and the demands for fee refunds over your experience so far this year and particularly now that UCL is actively discouraging students from visiting campus if they don’t need to. I also talked about the concerns of students who were going to be undertaking research for dissertations and masters projects, the impact this entire year has had on students’ mental and physical health and concerns from our students in halls of residences (particularly those in University of London halls and private halls). Everyone in that virtual room got an insight on what it’s like to be UCL student this year. I got assurances that they will work with the sabbs on almost all of the points I raised, although tuition fee refunds are still a huge point for contention.

We will be releasing a statement tomorrow on our approach for the coming months so keep an eye out for it.

We’re hopeful that change will happen here at UCL, we’ve already ensured that those in UCL accommodation don’t pay rent if they’re not using their rooms and that they can end their contracts at any point without being liable for future rent. We also secured self-certification for extenuating circumstances and worked with Library Services so that you can still access key resources no matter where you’re studying from.

This has already been a difficult beginning to the year, the start of 2021 feels like so much like March 2020, but we will get through this together.