Students' Union says university has 'ignored' calls for exams to be moved online

The vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton responded to the open letters saying, they have taken every precaution to keep students safe

Southampton University Students' Union say student's calls to move all exams being held this month, to online, have been ignored by the University of Southampton. 

The results of a Student Union vote held last week, found 95% of students at the university were concerned in-person exams could cause a Covid surge.

The union has sent a total of three open letters to the University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Mark Smith, calling the University to move exams to a virtual space.

In the first letter the Union said, "Infections in the exam hall are not only likely but inevitable; this will endanger vulnerable students, add additional pressure to the NHS during an already strained time."

Following no response from the Vice Chancellor, the Union sent a second letter, saying that the union believes it 'would be fairer to protect the safety and wellbeing of all members of our University community.'

In response the Vice Chancellor Prof Mark Smith said, "The potential risk to students through in-person examinations is being actively and properly managed, just as it has been for in-person teaching, which students have been so keen to engage with.

"We fully explored the issues of anxiety which we acknowledge will be caused by a whole range of factors and indeed recognised that the prospect of sitting exams now may be daunting for some of our students.

"However, we remain confident that we have extensive pastoral and academic support in place for our students through our academic areas, our Academic Skills Centre and Student Services."

Southampton University Students' Union believes holding in-person exams could cause a surge in Covid cases

On Friday, (14 January) a third open letter was submitted, urgently calling on the university to delay the January exam window by one week.

The union said the delay would allow the university sufficient time to finalise preparations for online exams.

Following a student petition, from 05 - 07 January, the University of Southampton Students' Union held an All Student Vote.

The results revealed 95% of the 7,331 students who voted, agreed the University of Southampton should hold exams online instead of in-person.

In a statement, Union President Ben Dolbear said: "I am deeply disappointed to share with students that the University's executive has taken the decision to push forward with in-person exams this month.

"This is despite the overwhelming result of last week's All-Student Vote, which saw unprecedented numbers of affected students participating in our democratic processes to express their fears regarding in-person exams."

A University of Southampton spokesperson said: “The concerns raised by our students about in-person exams have been taken very seriously, as the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is always our top priority.

“After extensive discussions, the University has decided that while a significant number of exams will take place online, some in-person exams will also take place as planned. This is in line with the Government’s advice and expectation that on-campus activities can and should continue.

"The balance between online and in-person assessment has been carefully considered to ensure it is in the best interests of our students’ long-term education with us.

“We are taking every precaution to reduce any potential risks and will only use venues that have sufficient space to allow for our COVID safety measures to be put in place. We are confident that our in-person assessment arrangements are as safe as our in-person teaching arrangements.

“Assessments are always a time of anxiety, and we have a range of academic and pastoral support in place for our students. If anyone is unable to attend an in-person exam due to COVID, or self-isolation, there is a special considerations process they can follow.”