A translation of Michelle Donelan’s STUDENT MESSAGES

Our Minister for Universities saw this Friday evening as the best time to give a quick shout at the higher education sector. Except she addressed it to students … on Twitter. I thought I’d give a rough translation for those not particularly well-versed in ‘govspeak’ (known elsewhere as ‘rubbish’).

In one way it looks like DfE making an attempt to support students. It’s not. A new letter sent to universities by the OfS, while also appearing tough on the rights of students, does nothing to strengthen or promote them. Rather, it signals a desire to stay out of anything not covered under the moniker of ‘teaching and learning’. It makes work for already stretched providers without providing anything of substance to frustrated students.

Anyway. Without further ado; Michelle.

STUDENT MESSAGE 1: Universities are responsible for their own fees but the Government has been VERY clear if universities want to continue charging the full fees, they are expected to maintain the quality, quantity and accessibility of tuition.

TRANSLATION 1: We wish to maintain the illusion that higher education is a market based on price (clearly it isn’t, given almost every course costs precisely £9,250). If we keep saying we’ve been clear then it must be true. It doesn’t matter that what we’re being “clear” about is fanciful – as if any institution could become the Open University overnight.

STUDENT MESSAGE 2: The quality of online learning is actively monitored by the @OfficeStudents, so students can graduate with world class degrees.

TRANSLATION 2: We’re not sure how to have OfS monitor online learning without being sent Zoom links for every lecture. Anyway, that’s their problem. Generic comment about being “world” “class”.

STUDENT MESSAGE 3: If students think they aren’t getting quality, quantity & accessibility they should raise their concerns with their Uni via the complaints process. If unresolved, they can go to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) oiahe.org.uk

TRANSLATION 3: If you’re not happy, go tell someone else. We may have mentioned this idea of ‘autonomy’ before. Effectively it means we have the power over universities but none of the responsibility.

Note: The OIA actually won’t consider complaints about the quality of academic delivery or decisions (what they term ‘academic judgment’). Confusing given the chief executive of OfS, chair of OfS, guidance from OfS and our friend Michelle all saying they will.

STUDENT MESSAGE 4: Students have faced a v challenging time & we as a government encourage universities & accommodation providers to review their accommodation policies to ensure they have students best interests at heart. We are urging them to make their policy clear & be fair.

TRANSLATION 4: Students keep moaning that they’re finding this year “difficult”. We encourage other people to deal with problems we’ve caused without our support. Policies, policies, policies.

STUDENT MESSAGE 5: It’s too soon to say when we will be able to get more students back, but we will as soon as we safely can. We will look to prioritise practical and creative students and those nearer to graduation in any decision making re who can return.

TRANSLATION 5: We have literally no idea when students can go back to what they’re still paying full price for. We promise we’ll prioritise people we’ve completely ignored so far. Anyone else will just have to get over it.

STUDENT MESSAGE 6: We have given £20 million to help students most in need of support in these exceptional circumstances, in addition to the flexibility given so unis can use the existing £256 million to help students. We are working on what more we can do to support students.

TRANSLATION 6: We have spent the same money almost every way imaginable. Almost. We are working on ignoring the students and staff telling us how to support them.

You can find the original thread here.

The public wonder why students are always protesting. I must have missed the means-tested holiday refund hardship fund. Meanwhile, conservative ministers get rather frustrated at students being ‘turned’ to the left at university. As Sonia Sodha notes, maybe a little self reflection might be helpful to any confused ministers.


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