On Wednesday 25th November, the University announced to its staff that WISER was to close – without any student consultation or conversation with the Students’ Union. As your VP Education, I wrote to the Pro Vice Chancellor Students and Teaching to outline my anger, hurt and frustration on behalf of the students of UCLan – in particular the widening participation community.
A week later, Zuleikha, Sarah (Our Advice and Representation Manager) and I met with the Deputy Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor to discuss the issues faced. In my letter and in this meeting, we asked the following questions:
- Does the curriculum embedding of academic skills provide the same opportunities as the WISER service?
- How will students access further support should they need it?
- Who is responsible for its delivery in each school as we have already seen the Deputy Heads for Students and Teaching are at capacity?
- What standards should students be able to expect?
- How will you ensure this is consistent as we are still struggling with consistency on teaching that is already the responsibility of the academics?
- Why is the middle of the academic year inside a pandemic just before exams begin deemed as an appropriate time to remove such a vital service? We are still struggling to push out the training for Academic Misconduct which is 6 months down the road.
- Will students know who to contact?
- What extra resources have schools been provided with?
In this meeting, we were advised that the move would be to faculty-based support due to a lack of WISER’s current reach across the University, the change was to better support students’ academic studies and that a consultation with staff was being held that would further shape the proposal being made. We were promised sight of the proposal and in turn we advised that we would (although not invited to) be responding to the consultation regarding the closure of WISER. This proposal has not been received despite requests.
The Students’ Union asked students to come forward with their feedback about Why WISER and students, you did not let us down! Over 35 compelling cases were sent to us by students from across the University, telling us why they felt WISER was crucial for their success and that of other students. Using this information, alongside discussions with the WISER service – I wrote a formal response to the University that focused on the following:
- Students’ voices on why WISER is needed.
- Concerns around how the decision came to be made.
- Narrowing participation despite promising access and participation.
- University Staff being at breaking point at present.
- Investing in education and not fancy websites.
- Ensuring quality assurance without educational reassurance.
- How we improve upon WISER digitally but keep its integrity.
I ended the consultation response of over 9,960 words with the following;
‘As no proposal or plan has been forthcoming, we are concerned that there is no present plan at all. This is hugely concerning to the Students’ Union and to our students because to be frank – it is the students that will fail due to the lack of plan from the University. This is not an ‘oops’ moment that students can ‘forgive and move past’, this could detrimentally impact their assessments, their degrees, their career prospects and their lives. We cannot and must not play a game of risk when it comes to the academic progression of students who invested in the UCLan dream especially when we promised them ‘opportunities to create success’ and ‘academic excellence’.
You can read Steph's full response here.