Email from the School sent on 4th March 2020

To: All students From: Emilia Onyema, Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching

As you know, industrial action continues to be taken by UCU, with action ongoing this week until Thursday, and a further five days next week. I am sorry that your learning and teaching experience with us at SOAS has been affected by this.
Our overall approach continues to be to seek to continue to provide access to SOAS services and to take all steps we can to mitigate the impact so that our students can progress and complete their studies with us. The information we have provided and detailed emails are on the MySOAS for students webpages.

National dispute 
Some students have asked what more SOAS could do to resolve these issues directly. I do want to remind the SOAS community that these disputes on pay and on pensions are taking place at national level, with negotiations on pay taking place between the unions UCU/Unison and the employers body UCEA, and on pensions between the national representative organisation UUK with the pension body USS and the UCU union. Pay and pensions are part of a national framework, rather than decided locally by individual universities.

As a School, we remain committed to supporting an open and constructive dialogue with UCU/Unison on these important matters. We have continued to urge resolution and discussion to reach agreement in the interests of staff and students. 

In relation to pensions in particular, throughout January and February 2020, the national representative organisation UUK has taken part in over 20 hours of intensive and constructive talks with senior representatives from UCU and USS. These talks have been focused on building a common understanding on the future of the pension scheme, the 2020 valuation and governance issues.

We continue to hope that national discussions succeed and action is brought to an end as quickly as possible in the interests of everyone involved.

Compensation issues

We have also been asked by students about the position in relation to fee refunds. Our overall approach is that we have continued to provide students with updates and guidance on all the steps that have been taken and continue to be taken to ensure that students' learning and progression are supported. Fees contribute not only to contact hours but to supporting a wide-range of facilities and activities including learning resources, the library and support services for students, which continue to be provided.

We have taken active steps to mitigate the impact of disruption to ensure that the required learning outcomes from students’ programmes can be delivered, and that students have the opportunity to complete modules and progress to the next year or graduate. For this reason, it is not expected that refunds would need to be made.

This is the same approach we took to the strike action in 2018 when industrial action was also taken by UCU on a similar timescale and scope, and students in that year were able to complete their studies successfully due to all these mitigation steps and did not generally experience detriment in their future studies or employment.

As is normal practice, pay is withheld where strike action is taken by individual members of staff. As has been done before at SOAS, any surplus monies accumulated in this way will be placed in the student hardship fund. We will be informing the school in due course how these will be allocated.

If any student believes that they have a specific set of circumstances that puts their request for a refund outside the consideration of this general approach by SOAS, they can pursue that through the SOAS students complaint procedure.  

As we said on 19 February, students who wish to submit a formal complaint relating specifically to the strike action in February and March 2020 should submit their form and supporting evidence no later than midnight on Friday 17 April 2020. Information on how to make a complaint can be found on the SOAS website.

Fee payments

In relation to current fee payments, I really do want students to note that full payment of fees is a condition of enrolment at SOAS, which students sign up to at the start of each year.

Like all institutions, SOAS has an established policy on sanctions which are taken when students do not pay the fees which are due (and have not agreed a deferred payment plan as a result of exceptional personal circumstances). This is known as 'Financial Suspension' and the primary effect is to block access to BLE (Moodle), meaning students cannot access learning resources or submit assessments online. These restrictions remain in place until the expected payment is made. Students who are suspended cannot receive assessment results, progress to the next year of study, or graduate from their degree until debts are paid. 

I hope this information is helpful to see for all of our students

Best wishes
 
Emilia
 
Emilia Onyema
Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching
 

Email from the School sent on 24 February 2020

To: All students

From: Emilia Onyema, Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching

We provided an update on Wednesday 19 February, covering a range of information.

https://mysoas.sharepoint.com/sites/student/news/Pages/Strike-action-supporting-your-progression-and-completion-19-February.aspx  

This update covers wellbeing services and a reminder on examinations and assessments.

 

1) Wellbeing services

We are providing access to wellbeing services both on-campus and off-campus, during the current period of industrial action.

A member of Student Advice and Wellbeing will be available off-campus at Dinwiddy House on each strike day. Please look at the Student Advice and Wellbeing Friday Newsletter for up to date information on the times they will be there. Students will need to bring their SOAS ID for the reception staff to let you into the building. Dinwiddy House is located at 189-205 Pentonville Road‎, and is a 5-minute walk from King's Cross.

The Wellbeing Advice drop-ins will continue to take place on-campus in Paul Webley Wing, SL48. However, these will move to a pre-booked system to enable students to request the consultation to be via phone or Google Hangouts. Please contact us the day before by emailing studentadviceandwellbeing@soas.ac.uk to book.

All booked appointments for advice and support with the following teams will continue in their usual locations unless we contact you: finance, immigration, counselling, mental health, disability, sexual violence support worker, and faith. All of these appointments can be carried out via phone or Google Hangouts if requested in advance.

 

2)  Examinations and assessments

On examinations and assessments, the advice provided on changes of deadlines and on coverage of exams remains unchanged. But we have received some questions on coverage of exams and wanted to repeat the advice already issued and make sure this was understood. What we said on 7 February 2020 was as follows:

 

"Progression and graduation

"We are committed to the principle that completion of your studies and graduation, and student progression to the next year, should not be affected. This means we will be taking the steps outlined below to mitigate the impact of disruption.

 

"In relation to any assessments due to be handed in during the strike period, we are assessing how best to change deadlines so that hand-in does not take place on any strike day, and the impact of strikes on preparation of assessments is minimised.

"We are committed to ensuring that examinations relate to topics which have been covered, and that you will not be expected to tackle questions that have not been covered due to strike action.

"This should mean that:

  • all students should be able to complete their courses;
  • assessments should reflect topics that have been covered in delivered teaching material; and
  • your marks will not be impacted by any industrial action that takes place"

To be clear, therefore, on coverage of exams: where material has not been delivered by staff due to industrial action - eg lectures have been cancelled and no alternate delivery has been put in place - then this will not be covered by examinations. 

Where teaching material has been delivered by staff, whether this is during strike period or not, then examinations can cover this. Some staff, of course, continue to deliver teaching material during the period: a strike being called does not mean all teaching activity ceases, since strike action is an individual decision by each member of staff.

We are happy to draw students' attention to this - as it says in the second bullet point above as issued on 7 February - and make this explicitly clear. These arrangements are the same as applied in 2018 when similar industrial action was taken, and we took similar steps to support students' progression and completion.

If you have any questions about whether any particular teaching material has been delivered during this period, please do contact your module convenor.

Latest information about how we are supporting your progression and completion of studies is available on MySOAS for students

Best wishes

Emilia

Emilia Onyema

Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching?

 

 

Email from the School on 19th February 2019

To:  All Students

From: Emilia Onyema, Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching

 

This email provides an update on information for students in relation to strike action. You can find up-to-date information and links to all previous communications on dedicated pages on MySOAS for Students.

Our overall approach at SOAS is to look to mitigate the impact of industrial action to ensure that you can successfully progress and complete your studies.

As a community, we recognise the right of staff to take properly constituted action. At the same time, we seek to do all we can to support our students' learning and progression.

New and updated information in this email is as follows:

1) Welfare Services for Students: on and off-campus during strike action

On-campus support for students through Student Advice and Wellbeing (SAaW), including disability support, mental health advice and counselling sessions, will continue to be provided from the Paul Webley Wing, Senate House as normal on strike days. However, if you would like to visit the service and access support from an alternative location during this period, we are setting up space to provide support off-campus in Dinwiddy House. The support will include a Disability Adviser and Counsellor from SAaW, and a Students’ Union team of advisers.

If you already have a booking to access SOAS Student Advice and Wellbeing service for counselling, you can choose one of these options during strike days:

  • request rescheduling the session on the next available slot on a non-strike day;
  • request the session to be held via phone or Google hangouts;
  • keep it as it is and meet in the main SAaW offices.   

2) Mitigating circumstances and Special Exam Arrangements

Whilst we have extended the assessment submission deadline period by two weeks in order to mitigate against the impact of the strike period, you may still wish to inform us of circumstances that have affected your ability to submit your assessment on time. We encourage you to submit your application for mitigating circumstances on SID as soon as you are able to. You can seek further advice by writing to the studenthub@soas.ac.uk, visiting the Hub as soon as possible, or submitting an enquiry via the online Student Information Desk (SID) at www.soas.ac.uk/sid.

We are looking at applications on an ongoing basis throughout this period and the sooner you are able to apply, the sooner the panel will be able to provide you with your application outcome. This will enable us to provide timely and ongoing support at the earliest opportunity. The final deadline for all applications for mitigating circumstances related with pre-examination assessments is Friday 8 May. Please also see the Mitigating Circumstances Policy  

If you wish to apply for Special Exam Arrangements (SEA) 2020, the deadline is Thursday 12 March.

Any students who have a disability or Specific Learning Difficulties (SpLDs) and have not yet contacted the Disability and Neurodiversity Team should send their evidence to disabilities@soas.ac.uk and come as soon as possible to one of the Disability Drop-ins on Mondays and Thursdays 11am-12noon SL48 Paul Webley Wing.

3) Additional study space hours

We have agreed that G1 Learning Lounge in the main building should be open for extended hours on non-strike days up to Friday 20 March. This means that on Thursday 27 and Friday 28 February, Friday 6 March, and the whole of the week Monday 16 to Friday 20 March, G1 this space will be open for students until 1am. We will keep under review if additional hours in other spaces would be needed.

4) Library services

Library services and facilities should continue to operate as usual on strike days. The only exception is that the membership desk will be open only noon-4pm on strike days.

5) Online and Distance Learning students

We have sent reminder to all ODL students that assessment deadlines are unchanged since access to online teaching and learning is not affected by the strike action that has been called.

6) Assessment deadlines for students

These are amended as notified on 12 February. We are happy to clarify that the two week extension referenced for the period between 10 March and 20 April inclusive relates to all the days in that period, not just the start and finish days.

7) Complaints deadlines

Students who wish to submit a formal complaint relating specifically to the strike action in February and March 2020 should submit their form and supporting evidence no later than midnight on Friday 17 April 2020. Information on how to make a complaint can be found on the SOAS website.

Background

You can reference on MySOAS for Students pages as reminder of information and emails issued. These pages will be kept up to date.

Specific questions

If you have any specific questions, please contact your Module Convenor or Departmental Manager.

 

Email sent by the School to staff on Wednesday 12th February 2020

To:  Module convenors & Department Managers

From: Emilia Onyema, Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching 

 

Dear colleague

I'm sure there will be support amongst the student body for the national strike action that has been called by UCU and Unison, and for other action short of a strike. 

 

But it is also likely that there will be considerable concern from students – as we have seen on previous occasions – perhaps especially from our PGT students and our final year UG students, who will be worried about their ability to complete their studies. This will also be important for other undergraduates, who will have concerns about their ability to progress to the next level.

We will need to be able to reassure students that strike action will not affect their ability to graduate and to progress. This will require us to do some thinking about how we approach assessments and exams. 

As a policy approach, and as discussed with Heads of Department, we are seeking to reassure students now that:

· all students should be able to complete their courses; 

· assessments should reflect topics that have been covered in the teaching materials delivered; and

· marks will not be impacted by industrial action that takes place.

Please note that given the scale of the potential action, it is unlikely that we will be able to reschedule all classes systematically and reliably. It is also not the case that we are instructing staff to reschedule teaching activities.

We therefore need to check that the current set of assessments can still be completed by students, where classes may not be delivered and cannot be rescheduled. All assessment deadlines falling after Thursday 20 February will be extended until after the strike period: new deadlines are being sent to students today (see below).

We are also asking module convenors, in discussion with Chairs of Exam Boards or their Deputies, to consider the following:

Exams

· We are expecting departments to finalise their exams for Term 1 modules now, in the normal way. We are suggesting that departments finalise exams for Term 2 modules and for full-year modules in the last week of this term (i.e. the week beginning Monday 16 March). 

· If you have an exam for a Term 2 or full-year module, then please can you, by Friday 27 March, either:

a) confirm to your Department Manager that the draft examination you have already submitted is not affected by teaching missed due to strike action and can go ahead as drafted; or

b) submit a redrafted or amended paper, to take into account teaching that has been missed. Students should be expected to be able to answer all questions, so there should not be questions relating to materials that have not been delivered.

Other forms of assessment

· With other forms of assessments, please consider if they could also be affected by strike action. This means considering:

a) if the content is potentially going to be affected by any missed teaching; and

b) if the timing of the assessment is going to be affected (for example if an in-class test or presentation falls on a strike day).

· If changes need to be made then students will need sufficient notice for them to prepare for any changes to assessment. Please therefore let your Department Manager know whether the current assessment schedule can be completed by students, and if not, what alternatives can be put in place.  

If students have concerns relating to wider strike issues which as module convenor you cannot answer, please ask them to contact their department office. Regular email updates are being sent to all students and these are being collated on MySOAS pages for reference.

 

 

Email sent by the School on Wednesday 12th February 2020

To:  All Students

From: Dr Emilia Onyema, Interim Pro-Director Learning and Teaching 

 

Our email of 7 February set out the approach we are taking to the planned UCU strike action, to mitigate its impact so that students can progress or complete their studies with us.
 
In relation to assessments, we said that we were assessing how best to change deadlines so that hand-in does not take place on any strike day, and the impact of strikes on preparation of assessments is minimised.
 
The position now is as follows: 
  • No change in assessment deadlines up to Wednesday 19 February (the day for any strike action starts);
     
  • All assessments with deadlines between 20 February and 9 March inclusive have the deadlines extended to Monday 23 March 2020;
     
  • Any assignment with a deadline 10 March and 20 April inclusive have an additional 2 weeks (so, for example, 20 April moves to Monday 4 May);
     
  • Any assignment (including Independent Study Projects (ISPs)) with a deadline between 21 April and 1 May inclusive, moves to Monday 4 May.
Those students with Study Inclusion Plans (SIPs) will continue to have in place the agreed extensions to the new deadlines.
 
Taking into account the changes listed above, we encourage students to plan ahead and have a clear picture of their deadlines. Especially, taking into account exam season has been scheduled to start on Wednesday 6 May. It is essential for students to be aware of how the new assessment deadlines could potentially impact their study time, both for assessments and exams. If you need support with this, please get in touch with CILT, our Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching. You can find them at the front desk of the library in the main building or contact them on cilt@soas.ac.uk
 
For any in-class assessments - such as performances and presentations - which fall due on strike days, students will need to check the position with their module convenor. We will be asking staff to inform students of any changes to arrangements for in-person assessments. Students who find any such session cancelled without having a clear understanding of when they will be rescheduled, should contact their departmental office so that alternative assessment and/or mitigation can be arranged.  
 
We continue to discuss any issues related to mitigating the impact of strike action with colleagues across the school, including with the Students' Union, and will provide further updates as needed.  
 
If you have any specific queries relating to your modules, please contact your module convenor.

 

 

Email sent by the School on Friday 7th February 2020

To: All students
From: Deborah Johnston, Pro-Director Teaching and Learning

Dear student,

We emailed you on 3 February in relation to advice on the potential for UCU strike action this term following the ballot which took place at SOAS last month on the national pay and pensions disputes.

This is an update in light of the specific dates for strike action now notified to SOAS and 73 other UK universities.

Overall SOAS approach
Our overall approach is to look to mitigate the impact of industrial action to ensure that you can successfully progress and complete your studies.


Specifically now:
• We want to ensure you have information on supporting your learning which may be affected by strike action;
• We are looking at how assessment deadlines should be moved to accommodate the impact of strike action;
• We can assure students with Tier 4 visas that attendance/non-attendance is not being recorded on strike days - this approach has been approved by the Home Office;

• We want to remind you about conduct in relation to strike action.

As a community, we recognise the right of staff to take properly constituted action. At the same time, we seek to do all we can to support our students’ learning and progression.


Strike dates now notified
The University and College Union (UCU) – the trade union which represents academic staff – has announced strike action at SOAS and 73 other universities on fourteen days between Reading Week and the end of term two on the following days:

• Week One: Thursday 20th and Friday 21st February (two days)
• Week Two: Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th and Wednesday 26th February (three days)
• Week Three: Monday 2nd, Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Thursday 5th March (four days)
• Week Four: Monday 9th through to Friday 13th March (five days)

The other staff union Unison also have a smaller number of staff in the professional services who are covered by the USS scheme and have also voted for strike action. Their initial notification for strike action covers the first three days (20th, 21st and 24th) as well. They may notify additional days in the period ahead as well.

National pensions dispute and pay
The dispute is at national level with negotiations on pay and pensions taking place between UCU/Unison and the employers body UCEA. Pay and pensions are part of a national framework, rather than decided locally by individual universities. 


SOAS position
We are clear that this is a national dispute and the School remains committed to supporting an open and constructive dialogue with UCU/Unison on these important matters.
We would urge resolution and discussion to reach agreement in the interests of staff and students. We hope national discussions succeed and strike action is brought to an end as quickly as possible in the interests of everyone involved.
In the meantime, here at SOAS, we will seek to work with UCU/Unison and with their membership, and with the Students’ Union in protecting the learning and wider student experience throughout the course of this dispute.

Impact of strike action
Our concern of course is to ensure that we provide as much support for students as possible. In 2018, we took a range of steps successfully to mitigate the impact of industrial action to ensure that students could successfully progress and complete their studies, and we would look to take additional measures on this occasion.
Strike action would not involve all staff, since it relates only to UCU staff (and those Unison staff in the USS pension scheme). We would therefore seek to continue to run student services and support, including Library services, student advice and welfare services, access to IT and all online resources, and our departmental offices.

Informing students on specific teaching affected
Please note that union members do not have to provide information to SOAS in advance as to whether they will be taking strike action or not. It is clear, however, that the action is likely to cause disruption to some teaching, with academic staff deciding how and whether to take part in the dispute.

Given the cost and impact to students coming to campus unnecessarily, especially those who live at a distance or have caring responsibilities, we will be asking staff for wellbeing reasons if they can inform students via Moodle or via Department Offices if teaching is cancelled.

Rescheduling classes or other activity
The scale of action runs over a 14 day period and we do not expect that classes will be routinely rescheduled. However, if colleagues are able to reschedule classes, we will be asking staff to also record the class on Panopto so as many students as possible can access them.
We will also be asking staff if they can consider other activities which can support students:
- Can staff use office hours to give support?
- Can staff use online material to provide support?
- Can staff provide outlines to support self-directed or group study?
 

Cancelled classes
If you do not receive notice in advance that a class is cancelled on strike days, but your lecturer has not arrived within 10 minutes of scheduled start, you can reasonably assume the staff member is on strike. Please consider whether you can use the time for group discussion about the topic or use the library for self-study.
 

Recording attendance
Our policy is not to record attendance/non-attendance on strike days, including for students who have Tier 4 visas. The Home Office has confirmed that this approach is in line with their guidance: they do not expect us to take any action in relation to non-attendance of Tier 4 visa holders on strike days. This applies to both taught students and postgraduate researchers.


Progression and graduation
We are committed to the principle that completion of your studies and graduation, and student progression to the next year, should not be affected. This means we will be taking the steps outlined below to mitigate the impact of disruption.
In relation to any assessments due to be handed in during the strike period, we are assessing how best to change deadlines so that hand-in does not take place on any strike day, and the impact of strikes on preparation of assessments is minimised.
We are committed to ensuring that examinations relate to topics which have been covered, and that you will not be expected to tackle questions that have not been covered due to strike action.

This should mean that:
• all students should be able to complete their courses;
• assessments should reflect topics that have been covered in delivered teaching material; and
• your marks will not be impacted by any industrial action that takes place

Access to buildings and facilities
In relation to strike action on the days notified, it is likely that union members will be picketing buildings. Picketing means they will be seeking to persuade other members of staff not to work and to support their action. Students will be able to pass through picket line and will not be prevented from entering the School buildings by union members.
In terms of other facilities, we will be seeking to ensure services at SOAS – Library, student advice, departmental offices and so on – remain open as normal. If any services are affected, then as far as possible we would provide updates in advance or on the day.
We are considering what additional support or extended hours might be provided for accessing services - including extending Library hours after strike action - and will announce this in advance where arrangements can be made.

Students showing support for staff
We appreciate that some students may wish to show support to their academic staff. Please note there are clear rules in relation to employment law which apply to conduct of picket lines which Trade Union colleagues have to observe to ensure they remain lawful. Students are asked not to join the formal picket line itself, even if this is well intentioned, since that line is for staff who are formally undertaking the lawful picketing activity.  
We also want to remind students that the guidelines on behaviour towards SOAS colleagues continue to apply. Strike action relates to UCU-eligible staff (and relevant Unison staff), not all SOAS staff – and staff not on strike are entitled to enter their workplace without intimidation. Student disciplinary processes can apply if behaviour is not appropriate.

Wellbeing for staff and students
We are exploring - at the request of the Students' Union - if any space can be set aside away from the main buildings or on non-SOAS premises where SU and other welfare services can be provided, for students who do not wish to enter the main SOAS buildings when strikes are taking place. Likewise we are looking at arrangements for staff where appropriate.

Mitigating circumstances
Since we are taking steps to alter assessment deadlines to take account of the impact of strike action, students should be able to meet those deadlines unless mitigating circumstances arise. Please note that strike action in itself be cannot be used as a mitigating issue for late submission of the assignments. There is a clear set of criteria as to what can be accepted, outlined in the Mitigating Policy point 2.4.

Complaints
We believe that the steps we are taking are reasonable and appropriate to mitigate the impact of strike action and ensure that students can progress in their studies. If you do have a complaint in relation to provision then we would note that the current complaints procedure is:

https://www.soas.ac.uk/student-complaints/student-complaints-procedure.html 

Further information
We will continue to keep you updated in the period ahead.
Please also look out for individual updates in relation to teaching activities.
If you have questions about your individual modules pleased contact your module convenor. If you have other questions please contact your departmental office.

 

Email sent by the School on Monday 3rd February 2020 

To: All students

From: Deborah Johnston, Pro-Director (Teaching and Learning)  

 

Possibility of strike action at SOAS

You may be aware of the dispute at national level in relation to both pensions and pay at universities for our academic staff (and for professional services staff on equivalent grades).

In the autumn, staff at 60 universities in the UK voted for and took strike action on this issue. At SOAS, however, the required voting threshold was not passed so no action resulted.

A re-ballot of staff last month has resulted in an additional 14 universities, including SOAS, voting in favour of taking action.
At present, while UCU have suggested when they might take action, no specific notification has been given for a further round of strike action. Formal notification in advance is required if strike action is to be taken.

This information therefore is about our approach to these issues generally. We would provide additional specific information and advice if strike action is called on specific days.
 

National dispute on pay and pensions

The dispute is at national level with negotiations on pay and pensions taking place between UCU and the employers body UCEA. Pay and pensions are part of a national framework, rather than decided locally by individual universities.
 

SOAS' position

We are clear that this is a national dispute and the School remains committed to supporting an open and constructive dialogue with UCU on these important matters.

We would urge resolution and discussion to reach agreement in the interests of staff and students. We hope national discussions succeed and strike action is not something which unions feel the need to take.

In the meantime, here at SOAS, we will seek to work with UCU and with their membership, and with the Students’ Union in protecting the learning and wider student experience throughout the course of this dispute.
 

Supporting our students

Our concern of course is to ensure that we provide as much support for students as possible.  In 2018, we took a range of steps successfully to mitigate the impact of industrial action to ensure that students could successfully progress and complete their studies.

Strike action would not involve all staff, since it relates only to UCU staff (and those Unison staff in the USS pension scheme). We would therefore seek to continue to run student services and support, including Library services, student advice and welfare services, access to IT and all online resources, and our departmental offices.
 

Future updates

If strike action is called, our unions will give notification a week or more in advance, as required by employment law. We will provide updated information and advice if and when that happens.

This webpage was last updated on: 04 Mar 2020 17:06