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The fight for refunds and academic protection begins at Brunel

By Alex Langridge

Brunel students are demanding rent and tuition refunds and academic protection amidst the third national lockdown.

Petitions and campaigns have been circling Brunel to help promote students’ voices and concerns.

Brunel Student Justice, a movement voicing these complaints, said: “The main concerns of the student body are mostly related to the university’s handling of COVID-19.”

This is not only the view of Brunel students but university goers across the country. A national petition has been put forward to Parliament seeking reimbursement for student rents for all accommodation not used this academic year. It has received over 38,000 signatures.

Brunel Student Justice added: “We seek to represent the best interests of students at Brunel.”

Their five demands are as follows:

  1. REFUND: A full refund for term one including rent and tuition fees.
  2. OPEN THE BOOKS: Getting a precise breakdown of university spending to understand where the finances are invested.
  3. STUDENT DEMOCRACY: Involvement of an unpaid student member to play an active role in the financial decision-making process to prevent similar situations to the current.
  4. LET US OUT: To let students out of rent contracts with no further rent or fees to be paid. These students must also be entitled to receive any reductions in previous rent payments that may occur.
  5. NO DETRIMENT POLICY: Students are under intense academic and financial strain, therefore create a safety net.

The Union of Brunel Students Team released a statement updating students on the actions they have taken to ensure transparency of what they are doing to support students.

These included discussing options with the Accommodation team and opening negotiations with Brunel’s Chief Finance Officer regarding an ‘opt out’ in student accommodation contracts.

They asked students to keep them informed, to keep talking and to let them challenge the University on student’s behalf.

A Brunel University spokesman said: “Senior management have been in discussion with the Union of Brunel Students and will meet this week.”

The University has advised students to share any concerns with student services, residences, or speak to their Student’s Union Representative.

Ciara Haynes, a Brunel student, created a petition campaigning for a safety net policy to bring fairer results for students this year.

She said: “I have put forward a petition for a safety net similar to those circling other universities and felt that Brunel needed to get involved. From the response (over 1000 signatures so far) it is clear that this is needed.”

She emphasised the petition is not an attack on teaching staff and believes they are doing their best.

Brunel Student Justice agreed: “We will not be accepting any deal with the university that involves any staff redundancies or cuts to their pay. We hope to be fighting alongside the workers throughout this campaign.”

Haynes said she started the petition as students feel unheard and forgotten with many students suffering academically, financially, and mentally.

She added: “What cannot happen is to brush us under the carpet and not put in place any measures to protect us.”

Details specific to lockdown 3 are available here: https://students.brunel.ac.uk/support/support-and-services-on-campus.

You can find the University’s COVID-19 support portal on BruNet: https://students.brunel.ac.uk/Covid-19-support.

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