Student Voice Updates

This page summarises the current work taking place by your Student Officers and KCLSU to represent you in relation to the 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

What we set out to do

  • During the pandemic, KCLSU consulted students in the form of a survey in order to gain a greater understanding of key concerns, criticisms, suggestions or commendations that King’s College London students had in regards to the COVID-19 outbreak and the impact this has had on their university experience.
  • Your Student Officers and KCLSU have been working in collaboration with the University on the core themes and issues identified from students’ responses. KCLSU are committed to working on these topics as well as future issues identified by our membership.
  • The core themes identified and current updates relating to them are given below. You are able access the full written report here.
  • The survey report was sent to the college and we recieved their response in the form of a report. To access the full report click here

Exams and Assessments

Survey Findings

  • An overwhelming feeling that King's has not considered the personal impacts of COVID-19 to students with regards to exams and assessments, including worries about self, family and friends, being at risk and caring for others and the impact this has on their ability to perform to their usual academic standards.
  • Unnecessary stress caused by exam timetable delays and lack of administrative foresight Large number of students asking for exams to be cancelled.
  • External factors including distracting ‘home’ study environments, physical libraries/resources not being available or restricted, quarantine issues, IT/internet issues, and time zone differences for international students.
  • Unnecessary stress caused by exam timetable delays, delayed response of no detriment/safety net policy and lack of administrative foresight.
  • A large number of students asking for exams to be cancelled.
  • A feeling that adjustments to exams and assessments must be consistent across similar disciplines in order to ensure fairness for all students.
  • The additional impact of the UCU Strike leaving students feeling unprepared for exams and assessments.

KCL's Response

Strategic: The College acknowledges that some students may not have welcomed the decision to continue with assessments during the pandemic. At the same time, the College recognised the need for a flexible approach to defer or request an extension where this was needed, and to make this process as easy as possible for students to use. Principles developed by the College’s Academic Workstream to inform the College approach to assessments in spring/summer 2020, ensure that academic standards were maintained, students were supported in a consistent way, and that students were able to take assessments at the scheduled time where possible and to demonstrate their acquired learning. A separate strategy was developed to manage the research work undertaken by PGR students.
 

Practical: The practical implementation of the principles surrounding exams and assessments included creating additional resources to support students during remote study, including online assessments. The measures employed focused on: assessment period, assessment format, assessment plans, volume of assessments, marking timeframes/models, technology, and maintaining existing arrangements. This information was communicated to students as part of the College’s coronavirus COVID-19 website. Specific faculty plans were implemented and communicated to manage specific provision regarding: deferral, extensions and interruption of studies; Mitigating Circumstances; Safety Net Policy; progression requirements; assessment integrity; technology and resources; PGR students; suspension of regulations; and supernumerary clinical placements. Further support for teaching and learning more generally has been put in place including: support from Personal Tutors; Teaching, Learning and Assessment with Technology webpages; remote study skills resources from King’s Academic Skills for Learning (KASL) on KEATS; and IT support from the IT Service Desk.
The College did not provide a response to the impact of the UCU Strikes compounded with the pandemic on students' exams and assessments. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.


Next Steps: The actions taken by the College around exams and assessments form the basis of an Academic Strategy 2020/21 to anticipate and plan for a range of scenarios, to which the College can adapt rapidly and flexibly- to take account of the diversity of King’s provision, and the needs of different student cohorts. As part of this, a number of sub-groups have been formed to provide solutions on particular areas of provision. Once the exam period is completed, the Safety Net policy will be implemented to ensure students are not disadvantaged. Results will be communicated within specified timeframes with consistent guidance, so students are aware of any actions that they need to take going forward.

For the full response on this section please click here.

Active Officer Work

  • We have been a part of relevant College Workstreams where we have been able to aid in establishing principles for Exams and Assessments and Teaching, as well as provisions for lab work in the next semester.
  • We have worked with colleagues to implore the university to understand individual circumstances of students deferring to examination period 3, and provide provisions appropriately, as well as exploring options of bringing students who have non-conducive home environments for examinations onto campus in the August examination period.
  • The college has now put in place a ‘safety-net’ that protects students’ overall outcomes and ensures that assessments are not negatively affected by the impact of our current circumstances. There are different safety net policies for different academic years, please read the full information from King’s here. We are looking forward to working to further to define how this policy will be implemented across the faculties, given differences in assessment systems.
  • We are also currently working on the dissatisfaction expressed from students regarding the communications and specifications with the Postgraduate Taught Safety Net. For further information about this please scroll down.

Fees

Survey Findings

Students requested a partial refund of fees.
  • Justifications included but are were not limited to; impacts of UCU Strikes compounded by COVID-19; restricted access to resources such as libraries and study zones; international student fees differing from home fees; concerns about interests on loans; and general worries around the stability of the economic climate.
  • It was felt that there had been no clear communications on the partial refund of fees from the College to students, and more clarity was needed on the refund process.
  • Clarity was also suggested around how income would be spent by the College and for more transparent reporting regarding this in relation to student fees.

KCL's Response

Strategic: The College recognised the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic was likely to have on the financial position of some students. As a result, it put a number of measures in place to provide clear evidence-based processes for students who faced such issues, in order to support them during the period of the pandemic. The strategy was based on advice and guidance from the Student Loans Company and Student Finance England as well as College regulations and existing processes.

Practical:

  • Maintenance loans and payments: These included the impact of distance learning and College accommodation.
  • Tuition fee payments: Directing students to Credit Control for confidential advice and consideration of payment extensions.
  • PGR funding/Stipends: A submission extension of 3 months for PGR students, with no tuition fees payable and stipends extended during this period (still being looked at). Funding extensions for PGR students where research projects were impacted by the pandemic, and the evidence needed to apply for extensions.
  • General financial difficulties/Hardship funding: Financial FAQs were added to the Coronavirus webpages, including information for students and eligibility criteria for different funding schemes and students directed to specialist advisors.
  • Eligibility criteria for King’s Financial Aid in the areas of: Hardship directly related to Covid-19. Visa/exceptional costs – e.g. in relation to travel back to London/the student’s home country. Vulnerable students/Students of concern. Electives/field trips/placements.
  • Guidance for students on King’s Online programmes and the study period which would be considered for any refunds.
  • NHS bursaries: Directing these students specifically to the Exceptional Support Fund.

The college did not mention refunds or partial refunds for students on in-person courses and did not agree to provide transparency around reporting on how income of student fees would be spent. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

Next Steps:
The College did not detail any next steps with regards to Fees in their response. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

For the full response on this section please click here.

Active Officer Work

  • We have worked with the College to ensure that fees for international students for 2020-21 are capped on the 2019-20 band and not increased.
  • We have been meeting with various senior staff at the university to find out ways to ensure value for money for all students. We have discussed that we will find creative alternatives to ensure the highest level of education delivery virtually. As the UK University’s Minister has asked universities to not provide any refunds to students, we are trying to find ways in which students can be benefitted for the amount they spend.

Wellbeing

Survey Findings

  • The lack of consideration given to the personal impacts of COVID-19 to students has had a significant detrimental impact on the general wellbeing and mental health of students, with many mentions of students’ motivation levels being impacted not only for their academic studies, but also regarding their socialising and physical activity motivation levels.
  • Students also highlighted issues of racism against some students due to the pandemic.

KCL's Response

Strategic: King’s Wellbeing & Mental Health Workstream was created in March 2020.
 

Practical: A number of additional online actions were implemented to provide health and wellbeing support for students where some of the usual physical face-to-face support services transferred to remote delivery. Students were encouraged to use these facilities via College and Faculty level communications. Many were made accessible via the new Wellbeing portal on the King’s website to bring together resources in one place as effectively as possible. As an additional measure during the 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, clear information was given on the College ‘Coronavirus’ guidance pages to support students if, due to the pandemic, they experienced threatening or abusive behaviour including how to report it, both within and outside of the College. For King’s it is important as part of the academic strategy that students are fully engaged members of the King’s community. Some areas of focus for King’s included; Personalised intervention (expert formal services such as Advice and Counselling), Communicated guidance, Managed Intervention from Professional and quality assured services (such as Big white Wall, Chaplaincy and Mind), Network, Team and Peer Support via Informal digitally enabled groups to help maintain resilience (such as Take Time In, King’s Sport and signposting to other online wellbeing resources) and Empowering All through sharing volunteering resources, creative engagement and Positive Peers.


Next Steps:
As part of the College provision, student support services are continuing to operate a remote service with services providing updates on their offerings to students. Going forward, the College’s wellbeing provision will be ensured to be effectively maintained and strategies for vulnerable groups will be successfully communicated, so that these groups are supported during emergency situations.

For the full response on this section please click here.

Active Officer Work

  • Officers have worked on various events during Take Time In, all resources are still available and can be accessed here. Officers have been going virtually ‘on tour’ and have been answering student queries online.

International Students

Survey Findings

  • An increased and differential negative impact on international students with regards to academics, wellbeing, finance and residences.
  • International students commented on the added stress caused by travelling back to their home counties; being stranded in the UK away from their families; having substantial money worries due to the prospect of having to extend visas and pay for accommodation; racism experienced as a result of the outbreak; and a perceived lack of support for international students and the experiences they are having.
  • Suggested part refund of international student fees due to less face-to-face teaching and less access to facilities/resources, due to the higher fees paid by this cohort of students.

KCL's Response

Strategic: The College has implemented a series of strategic measures to support international students, including actions around communications, residences, welfare, and global mobility.

Practical: The following practical actions were implemented and communicated:

  • Coronavirus webpages – including information on travel, how to meet the conditions of Tier 4 visas, Remote Study Forms, and key contacts.
  • Student support – International Services Team and the Advice & Guidance Team.
  • Communication – video message of reassurance and support from the Vice Principal for International.
  • Global mobility – direct financial aid to assist students abroad.


The college did not address the issue of fee refunds specifically with regards to international students. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

Next Steps: The college has made available specific hardship funds for students who are/were previously abroad, where the circumstances necessitate urgent access to such support.
Although the College provided the above sentence in the next steps sections, there were no further actions detailed. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

For the full response on this section please click here.

Active Officer Work

  • As part of the International Profile and Reputation Working Group, we are consistently working in collaboration with the college and providing input on the International Strategy of the college for recruitment next year. Some topics covered include pre-sessional programs, global mobility, study abroad. We worked on joint paper with Global Mobility to present at the International Students Working Group. We have also had discussions with the Vice Principal- International to discuss the issues faced by the international students regarding travelling home, keeping up with the classes, wellbeing, fees and university support.
  • We are working to envision a sense of community while being remote and to ensure that international students are accounted for in all proposals for study next year so that no international student is disadvantaged.
  • We have ongoing work on micro-campuses and remote delivery with institutions as well as working to provide students with options for missed year abroads.
  • We are working with KCL Internationalisation to learn more about what students are doing and how quarantine has been for them, under a project called ‘King’s Stories’ (find out more here).
  • We have been meeting with King’s libraries to find out what resources they could provide to students remotely to support them with their studies, and have also written this blog with some resources available for free.
  • Finally, we have worked on concerns being raised about international student fees for next year and they have now been frozen on the 2019-20 band.

Residences

Survey Findings

  • Student concerns relating to not being able to pay their rent, due to not be able to undertake paid work - but being tied into a contract, which lead to additional stress and wellbeing issues.
  • Students had worries about left belongings in King’s Residences being safe and how these could be collected.
  • The prospect of coming back to campus and arranging accommodation for next term, especially for those on visas, was a concern.
  • A lack of communication, advice, and support from King’s Residences was felt by students.

KCL's Response

Strategic: King's College London recognised that many students would be able to move home during the pandemic and would in most cases be able to cancel their rental agreements. However, it was also recognised that the College had a duty of care to those remaining (currently around 1,400 students in King’s Residences), and that these students could have difficulties meeting residence fee payment deadlines, due to paid work issues relating to the pandemic. Additionally, it was acknowledged that additional guidance was needed for those with contractual issues, and for those renting in the private sector. Strategic steps were taken regarding finances, contracts, information sharing, security of possessions and additional support.
 

Practical:

  • Financial: The Credit Control department evaluated all requests regarding accommodation fees, giving consideration to individual circumstances, the time needed to make payment, payment history and evidence supporting the requests.
  • Contracts: All students in King’s Residences were given the opportunity to cancel the term 3 and 4 section of their contracts with no penalty, following the government recommendation that students should return home where possible. Around 70% of King’s student residents have to date (as of 13/5/20) requested to terminate their contracts before the start of term 3, with all requests accepted by the College, and actioned, with no financial impact to the students.
  • Information: Information via the website FAQs on how Residences would operate during the pandemic including contact details for Advice & Support. Advice on money and housing on a dedicated webpage.
  • FAQs on KCL Coronavirus website on rent/residences for students was made available as well as a legal guide for those renting in the private sector. Details of local authorities in London was also included to provide additional information and support to students in the private rental sector.
  • Security of possessions: King’s retained student residences rooms at no cost, in order to keep belongings safe until they could be collected and the FAQs on the Coronavirus website on rent/residences for students included information on what to do if possessions had been left in King’s Residences, how to complete an online form to facilitate keeping possessions secure and solutions on the packing/removal of belonging which remained.
  • Additional Support: Welfare Leads were and continue to be available in all King’s Residences (8pm – 8am) to support students, including making contact with any students who had requested support or who were self-isolating, and to offer assistance as needed. It is noted that the work done by Welfare Leads and Reception staff in King’s Residence has added value to the student experience and assisted engaging with other students. In some cases, 100% more students attended online versions of previously onsite activities.

  • Next Steps: The College recognised that it is possible that more work needs to be done to ensure that students in the private sector are supported as effectively as possible.
    It was suggested that Faculties should also continue to contact their students in residences to ensure they still feel connected to their programme of study.

    For the full response on this section please click here.

Active Officer Work

  • We have been consistently working with residences to ensure that students in residences are safe and well. We met weekly with the Residences team to find out about the number of students still in halls and receive regular updates. The main issue arising from the survey was the third term payment for rooms but as soon as we collated the results, that payment had been waived for all the students who had left promptly as per the guidelines.
  • During the beginning of the crisis, we connected the residence team with the Mental Health services team to ensure that students in residences were given priority and fast-tracked appointments with the relevant services. We worked with residences to ensure students self-isolating were provided with enough pastoral support, to make events accessible to students, and boost consistent engagement with community facilitators. Additionally, we helped provide feedback on the new residence booking system and worked alongside residences to encourage students facing difficulties to get in touch with us.
  • We are still having regular catch-ups with the Head of Residences to find out about the students in halls and trying to solve other issues in tandem as they arise.

Other

Graduation

Survey Findings

  • Clarity required on whether graduations were cancelled or postponed.
  • Lack of ‘visible goal’ to attainment has affected motivation for students.
  • Concerns that international students may not be able to return for postponed graduations.
  • Compensation for non-graduations requested.
  • Students should have graduation expenses paid.
  • Students should be included in discussions.

KCL Response:

Student Services webpages note that postponement to graduation ceremonies is a delay and not a cancellation and that it is expected that ceremonies will be held at a later date.

Eligible students will still become graduates of the College and receive their certificates by post.

FAQs have been created to assist students.

The college did not respond to the student suggestions of compensation for non-graduations or that students should have graduation expenses paid. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

Supervision

Survey Findings

  • Issues around contacting supervisors for meetings – areas of inconsistent practice.
  • Frustrations around cancelled lectures rather than being moved online.
  • Concerns around some staff called back into practice to support the NHS.
  • Extending dissertation timeframes, consistency between Faculties to manage absent tutors, and clear communication around online teaching were all suggested by students.

KCL Response:

The College has developed webpage support and newsletters for staff to provide consistent guidance. A more consistent following of recommendations outlined has been suggested.

Specific guidelines for staff called back into practice has been developed.

The College have not made reference to any specific reference to any of the suggestions made by students in this section. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

Part-Time Employment

Survey Findings

  • Loss of part-time jobs causing financial hardship for students.
  • Some students are seen as essential workers in part-time jobs.
  • College staff appear unable to answer questions from students on this area.
  • King’s should provide financial support where possible for this cohort and provide more reassurance about assignments for working students.

KCL Response:

The College has put guidance and policies in place to support students who are working alongside their studies.

The college lacked clarity on how they are specifically supporting essential workers in part-time jobs. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

Travel

Survey Findings

  • Impact on academic work – students disadvantaged as a result
  • International students unable to travel home.
  • Fieldwork and dissertation topics affected due to travel restrictions.
  • Concerns around study abroad and internships, and the impact on students’ studies and careers.
  • Students want to hear the College plans for the arrangements for next term and suggested an online meeting between International societies and management to discuss possible solutions.

KCL Response:

The College has two travel policies in place – one for international travel and one for inter-campus travel. 

The College noted that these policies have not been updated as part of the pandemic.

King’s has followed the government advice on travel for students and international travel and has provided specific information on travel as part of the Coronavirus website.

King’s has provided advice in line with FCO guidance regarding suspending study abroad placements for the rest of 2020.

Accessibility

Survey Findings

  • Accessibility issues for students with disabilities – feeling disadvantaged.

KCL Response:

The College is in the process of implementing Blackboard Ally, a diagnostic and resolution tool to support the creation of an accessible digital learning and teaching environment. 

The College’s Disability Support Team offers information, advice and guidance to prospective and current disabled students in areas such as exams and reasonable adjustments, specific learning difficulties, learning support and DSAs and funding - in conjunction with Faculty-level support for students.

The Coronavirus webpages provide information on how students could access disability support during the pandemic, via remote services.

UCU Strikes

Survey Findings

  • Impact of UCU strike alongside the Covid-19 pandemic not being taken into account by the College.

The College made no reference to actions taken regarding the added impacts of the UCU Strikes alongside the pandemic on students. Your Student Officers will have further conversations with the College on this matter and will keep students updated.

 

Emerging Topics

PGT Safety Net

There is an active campaign regarding the Postgraduate Taught Safety Net implemented by the university. For further information on this, please visit the PGT Safety Net Campaign page via this link.

How you can get involved

If you would like to be kept up to date, get involved in further work or have any urgent concerns, queries or feedback connected to COVID-19 and the impact on your student experience please email [email protected]

Return to main Covid information page