Lobbying Efforts 2020/21
A statement from Harriet Moore, Student Union President, on lobbying efforts.
It is increasingly more obvious that you are all interested to know what is happening behind the scenes, particularly when it comes to lobbying and making sure your voices are heard. This is why I am going to update you on my lobbying efforts and keep you informed on the things that are happening that you might not ordinarily know about. This includes tuition fee refunds, rent reduction and refund, access to campus, mental health and the overall impact that the pandemic has had on students.
This page includes Harriet's personal efforts of lobbying as well as local and national initiatives and updates.
NUS: #StudentsDeserveBetter Campaign - October 5th, 2020 (Ongoing)
It’s worth mentioning, for those of you who may not be aware, that the Students’ Union is a member of the National Union of Students, who do a great deal of work to lobby for students in all areas. The NUS is a confederation of students' unions in the United Kingdom, supporting over 600 SU’s including PCA SU. This means their voice carries a great deal of weight when it comes to lobbying the government and creating change.
You can find more information about all of their campaigns here, but it’s especially worth looking into their current #StudentsDeserveBetter campaign which asks governments and universities to recognise the treatment of students during the pandemic. The goals of the campaign are:
Uphold students' basic legal rights – students should not be treated differently to other members of the public and scapegoated. We should not be threatened and policed by private security forces.
No academic disadvantage for students affected by Covid-19 restrictions – all universities and colleges should adopt “no detriment” policies where needed, ensuring that no student is unfairly disadvantaged as a result of the pandemic.
Rent rebates – students should not be left out of pocket, paying for accommodation they can’t use, especially when they have no clarity on whether they’ll be expected to return to campus. We are calling on governments across the UK to provide compensation for those students affected.
Ensure fair treatment during accommodation lockdowns – rent reimbursement for lockdown periods and free internet access, care packages with food, wellbeing materials, and necessities, and targeted educational & mental health support, with facilitation of social activity.
Provide an effective strategy for education now and for post-covid recovery – Now: an effective test & trace system in place, a move to online teaching as default and a student support package including immediate financial & wellbeing support. Post-Covid: investment into digital infrastructure and mental health support. Future: a new strategy that delivers lifelong, funded and accessible education for everyone in society.
Plymouth Student Rent Strike - December 12th, 2020 (Ongoing)
Plymouth Student Rent Strike is an initiative set up by students encouraging those in student accommodation to participate in a rent strike, with the slogan "can't stay, won't pay". This includes those staying in university owned halls of residence, privately owned halls of residence and accommodation let by student accommodation providers or advertised as student housing. Their demands are as follows:
40% rent reduction for students in halls of residence
No penalty early contract release
No penalties for rent strikers
No zero hours contracts on campus (updated to include opt-in for 0 hours and the option for furlough)
Universities to provide decent and affordable accommodation to students; rents capped at no higher than a quarter of the average student maintenance loan!
UPSU must stop promoting Clever Student Lets
For more information, check out their Facebook page.
National Lockdown Response - from January 4th, 2021
As you know, the questions and concerns you raised to me as a result of the shock announcement of a third national lockdown was my highest priority. I want to thank you all for making your voices heard and getting in touch with you and your cohorts feedback.
I collated all of your questions and concerns into a Google document, which I then shared with Andrew Brewerton (Principal), the Senior Leadership Team, and key staff such as the Head of HE Registry. I sat down with these staff members to stand up for you all and fought for deadline extensions, for the PCA Bursary to be paid regardless of attendance and much more. As a result, there were two big Student Mailers sent out to students full of important information. The second of these included the Lockdown Questions document that I created and shared with staff, which I also sent out to your Student Representatives so they could answer your questions.
Access to Campus - January 14th, 2021
During this time, I also spoke to Student Union Presidents and Officers across the country who were also specialist arts universities, to see what resources their students could access on campus. This research was to ensure that students at Plymouth College of Art were getting as much, if not more, access than other students across the UK. This research showed PCA were offering students the same access and opportunities as many other universities, and also resulted in work around more accessible library resources.
Access to Campus Research
Lobbying GuildHE - January 22nd and 27th, 2021
I then teamed up with Lizzy Marshall of Falmouth Students’ Union and many other Student Union Representatives to write directly to the CEO of Guild HE. GuildHE is a British membership organisation representing the heads of higher education institutions, of which Plymouth College of Art is a member. This letter asked for GuildHE to speak up for students, and directly lobby for government change. It asked for consideration of students' mental health, access to facilities and more. You can read this letter and the reply we received, below. I will also be attending a GuildHE Students’ Union meeting on February 16th.
Letter to Guild HE | Guild HE Response
Plymouth City Council Motion on Notice - January 25th, 2021
Plymouth City Council released a Motion on Notice entitled "Supporting Student Renters and Student Landlords", which supports the aims of the Plymouth Students Rent Strike, as detailed below.
Noting that students, like many other people, have suffered profound economic
consequences due to the necessity of these public restrictions, the Council will ask the Cabinet member for Education, Skills and Transformation to write to the UK Government, asking relevant departments to work with student landlords, both university-owned and
reduce student rent by forty percent for the rest of the academic year
enable students who cannot occupy their accommodation to exit their contracts without penalty
reimburse students who have paid in advance and cannot occupy their occupation
reimburse lost income for student landlords whose tenants cannot occupy their accommodation
consider allowing students who cannot work due to lockdown to claim Universal Credit
respond to the Higher Education sector’s request for government financial support for enhanced student hardship funds allowing students to receive direct financial support across the full range of financial hardships caused by the pandemic
You can find the full Plymouth City Council Motion on Notice here.
Statement on Rent - February 2nd, 2021
Next, my priority became rent; rent reductions, rent refunds, rent rebates, etc. I recognise how many of you are struggling to pay rent for accommodation you cannot even access, and I thank those of you who have come to me directly to discuss this. I have done a substantial amount of research and work in this area now, looking at what different accommodation companies are offering, what Plymouth City Council are saying, and what other Students’ Unions are calling for. Below is our full statement about rent strikes, written by myself (SU President) with support from Nath Stark (Vice-President for Higher Education) and Aaron Lovelock (HE Wellbeing Representative).
Plymouth College of Art Students’ Union recognises the hardships students are facing at the moment. Student wellbeing and experience is at the forefront of our minds, and your Student Union President has been working tirelessly with members of staff to raise your concerns and get answers to your questions. We have been working behind the scenes to make your voices heard; we are thankful for all of your feedback and appreciate your patience as we work through everything that you have brought to us over the past couple of weeks.
We are all too aware that many of you who rely on work to cover the costs of your accommodation, cannot work during the pandemic or may have lost your jobs because of it. We are asking that all private landlords:
Ensure that students have a rent reduction of 40% for the remainder of the academic year
Ensure that students are not penalised if they end contracts early
Ensure that students are reimbursed for accommodation they weren’t able to occupy
We also recognise that there are many ways that Plymouth College of Art and your Students’ Union ensures it can support you in these difficult times. We want to reassure you that we are continuing to work with and lobby MP’s and Government to create wider policy change, including working with other Students’ Unions and universities, with Plymouth City Council, and through GuildHE, NUS, Ukadia, Universities UK and more.
We will be continuing to offer financial support such as the PCA Bursary and the Higher Education Hardship Fund. Your Students’ Union President worked to ensure all students would receive their PCA Bursary regardless of attendance, and has created a Students’ Union Bursary to support you in your academic studies. As always, we will be continuing to provide advice and help for each individual student based on their circumstances and will continue to work on this issue for you all.
To see the Plymouth College of Art statement on accommodation, click here.
Letter to Luke Pollard - February 2nd, 2021
In addition to this, I wrote a letter to local MP Luke Pollard urging him to lobby the government for policy change to support students experiencing this issue, and to encourage landlords to reduce or refund rent for this academic year. You can see my letter to Luke Pollard below. In addition to this letter, I will be attending the Zoom call Luke Pollard MP is hosting with Emma Hardy MP (Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities) to speak about the impact the pandemic has had on PCA students' mental, academic and financial wellbeing, and I encourage you to join in with this call.
My Letter to Luke Pollard
Template Letters - February 2nd, 2021
I have also written two template letters for you to send out, if you wish. The first letter is a template to landlords or accommodation providers to assist you in asking for reduced or refunded rent as a result of the national lockdown, and the second is for you to send to your local MP, urging them to support students in this matter.
Template Letter to Landlords | Template Letter to Local MP
PCA and UoP Letter to Landlords - February 8th, 2021
Plymouth College of Art joined with University of Plymouth for the second year running to draft a joint letter to the biggest student accommodation providers in the city, asking landlords to offer flexibility to students struggling with rent and utilities, particularly those who are not able to use their student accommodation during the lockdown. You can also send this to your landlord alongside the template letter above.
Letter to Landlords
Lobbying the NUS - February 14th, 2021
I once again teamed up with Lizzy Marshall of Falmouth Students' Union and many other Student Union Representatives to write directly to the National Union of Students asking them to campaign for national fee reductions or refunds. You can find our letter and its signatories attached, and I will include an update with the response from the NUS when we get one.
Letter to NUS | Signatories
Luke Pollard's Letter to Gavin Williamson - February 18th, 2021
On February 3rd, Luke Pollard MP held a Zoom discussion with representatives from University of Plymouth, Plymouth College of Art, Plymouth Marjon University, UPSU, PCASU and MarjonSU, as well as the wider student population in the city. Both myself and Steve Trotter, Registrar, attended this meeting. Luke was also joined by Emma Hardy MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education and Universities, who was keen to hear what students from Plymouth have to say – their concerns and their struggles. As a result of the meeting and other letters/ emails that he's received on the topic, Luke has now written to the Education Secretary to raise the issues that you and other students are facing.
You can find Luke's letter here.