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Maddie Colledge

postgraduate education
m.colledge@uea.ac.uk

Student power produces policy change

As a UEA student, there are University policies that govern every part of your academic life. When these policies are altered you're the ones that are affected, but you often won't know until they directly impact you. This is why I wanted to use my blog to introduce a policy change the University have recently made that will affect PG students. 

 As many of you will be aware, UEA decided to close a number of Postgraduate courses for 2017/18, including cutting all of their counselling courses. Back in May, I posted about the need to assess the impact of these closures and talked to students affected in a blog post that you can read here:

At the moment, UEA aren't required to perform an impact assessment on the closure of a course if there are less than ten full-time students enrolled on it. Crucially, this doesn't take into account part-time students, who are affected by these course closures just as much. For example, a course with up to 19 students studying on a part-time basis could be cut with no mandate on the University to assess the impact of the closure. 

1/3 of Postgraduates are currently part-time and these students are also often more likely to be from widening-participation (WP) backgrounds (mature, with child-caring responsibilities, or from financially disadvantaged backgrounds). These are some of our most vulnerable students, and our University was previously not obliged to take any action to protect them.  

I'm pleased to say that in response to concerns we've raised, the University has changed it's policy on impact assessments. Now the University is obliged to better reflect on the genuine impact of closing small cohort  masters courses. An impact assessment must now be carried out where a course has ten or more students enrolled – regardless of whether those students are full or part-time. Although this change is an improvement, ideally this change would have gone further. I think it's important that UEA look at the cumulative effect of scrapping multiple small-cohort masters courses and impact assess these together to see if a disproportionate amount of our WP students are being let down. 

Another policy we're currently working in partnership with UEA to change is the policy on placements. Some students have to undertake a self-sourced placement as a compulsory part of their Masters course. These are popular with the University as they are believed to improve student employability on course completion. Unfortunately, these placements are limited in number and sometimes it happens that students just simply can't find one. As they're a course requirement those who don't find a placement face failing their course.  

We'd like policy to change to protect students who don't manage to find a placement. For students on Masters courses with compulsory placements, alternatives should be put in place so that those who can't partake in a placement don't fail. The University should also take the implications of compulsory placements into account when designing courses and put provision in place for placement alternatives. The university have listened positively to these concerns, and will consider this in the future policy.  

If you've got any concerns about issues related to these changes, or anything else that I can help with as your Postgraduate Education officer, feel free to contact me via email at M.Colledge@uea.ac.uk  

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