Covid-19: University of Exeter virtual protests over 'lost' student experience

By Adam Durbin
BBC News Online

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image copyrightBella Enoizi
image captionBella Enoizi's petition calling for 'academic mitigation' has reached nearly 20,000 signatures

A student has launched a virtual protest calling for better support over "lost" university experiences.

University of Exeter student Bella Enoizi's petition has more than 20,000 signatures.

The petition cited "screen-sharing malfunctions, audio loss and Wi-Fi connectivity" in online learning as hampering their learning experience.

The University of Exeter issued a message to all students with a "no disadvantage guarantee" on Friday.

The #saveourgrades campaign saw students post on university social media feeds for more support.

Ms Enoizi, a third year English literature and Italian student, said a strain on student's mental wellbeing, with most being "stuck at home" and a variety of issues with online learning meant better academic and mental health assistance needed to be provided.

Ms Enoizi's group, Students for Academic Mitigation, has called for fairer grading for students in light of these issues.

"It goes without saying that every single student this year is facing exceptional circumstances as a result of Covid," she added.

image copyrightBella Enoizi
image captionMs Enoizi has called for more academic and mental health support for students

Ms Enoizi said her teaching had been "cut in half" and she was "really struggling to make up for that myself", citing "active discussion" with fellow students as a key part of learning.

"All of that has been lost really.

"Trying to learn a language over Zoom is difficult and an oral exam virtually is a really daunting prospect," she said.

'Supporting mental health'

Commenting on Facebook, students have pointed to a decrease in contact hours and the inability to use "basic resources like the library" as having a serious impact on their academic performance.

One wrote: "No cohort has ever or will ever have to live through a global pandemic, much less have to focus on writing essays, reports and completing endless hours of self teaching at home at the same time."

Ms Enozi cited the lack of laboratory time for science students to refine their research skills or access to archives for humanities students working on their dissertations.

She said: "The majority of us are stuck at home, not in our university towns, some don't even have a desk or even access to reliable WiFi."

image captionUniversity of Exeter students protested on social media for more help with grades in light of Covid-19

In a statement, the University of Exeter said it was offering students a "no-disadvantage guarantee" after discussions with student representatives.

This will mean taking a "consistent approach" to grading, comparing marks with previous years and creating "safety nets" for year groups and individual students to apply for mitigation and for examiners to make grade adjustments to correct any "significant deviation".

"This safety net means that your year group will suffer no detriment when compared to those who came before you, and those who will follow," the university added.

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