An Open Letter to Newcastle University

George Bell's personal appeal on the University

George Bell
13th November 2020
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Dear Newcastle University,

What happened? You used to be one of the top universities in the country (something you brought up constantly on open days), priding yourself on your impressive range of facilities and openness with students. Safe to say it has been quite the fall from grace.

In just this last year you have disappointed me, and I am certain a plethora of other students, in more ways than one. Where to start?

How about the recent cyber attack that practically crippled the University? Students heard about the cyber attack from outside sources (thanks Sky News) rather than you directly. Not only that, you never properly addressed the attack or apologised that some of our personal data were leaked to the dark web. Of course, cyber attacks can happen at any point in time and I am not laying the blame at your doorstep. It is the lack of transparency that is where the issue truly lies. An institution that prides itself on an open dialogue is not talking to its student body.

This obviously was only made worse by the global pandemic. For the most part, I must commend you for the safety measures you have in place, including for those isolating. With the University being in Tier 3, meaning all teaching is online (a wise choice), we are all learning from behind a computer screen. We're in keeping here with our fellow students across the country and the trailblazers of the trend: the Open University.

Despite getting the same experience, rather than paying just over three grand we still must pay £9250 (or £22 800 for international students). And it's not as if students haven't been vocally against this. Across the country, over 160 000 signed a petition to get student fees lowered until after online teaching ended, to which the government responded: “Universities are responsible for setting their own fees. Any lowering of fees would be their decision”. Students in Newcastle have taken this message to heart and have been imploring you to lower the fees, with movements like 9k4what? gaining significant traction. From the perspective of a student, it feels like we are just student numbers worth nine grand to you rather than actual people.

And now Christmas is just around the corner, and 2020 is finally about to come to an end. The latest concern of students is whether we will be able to go home for the holidays. As you are aware, the government recently announced that there would be a travel window for students to travel home following the end of the current lockdown. COVID-19 tests would be distributed to universities, who would then be responsible for giving them to the student body. Upon a negative result, you would be able to travel home.

But like the frost of winter across glass, you have remained unclear. Yes, chances are you are still in the process of planning this distribution process, but unlike other universities, like Sheffield, you have not informed us what you are doing. We are expected to wait for the eventual last minute announcement to drop everything and come get our tests. We are not just student numbers worth nine grand, we are people with commitments, be they jobs, family or actual degree work (you know, the stuff we pay for?).

You do not have to give us a date right now, but please reopen the dialogue and make us privy to at least some notion that you are doing something.



Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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AUTHOR: George Bell
One half film addict, one part computer nerd. All parts Croc lover

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