by Iida Käyhkö
As students living in London and paying tens of thousands of pounds to gain a degree that will most likely never lead to the fulfilling career we were falsely promised, the best we can realistically expect is a life devoid of happiness and security. Luckily, our university recognises our plight, as this common knowledge has now been turned into official UCL policy.
With the new extenuating circumstances regulations, circumstances such as “exam stress, financial problems, accommodation problems or domestic problems” are considered a part of the “everyday reality” of being a student, and UCL has decided that these situations are not in and of themselves sufficient grounds for extenuating circumstances. Because that’s just what student life is like in these times of marketised further education, right?
Under the new extenuating circumstances policy, it seems it will be almost impossible to get a deadline extension. The university is extremely unlikely to accept applications based on medical conditions that have not been fully diagnosed, or conditions that are already covered under examination arrangements. Furthermore, situations that were disclosed late will not be considered.
Not only do you need to go through reams of paperwork to apply for an extension and submit appropriate evidence, you could also be waiting for days to hear back from the faculty panel. Even more worryingly, these changes will predominantly affect students with ongoing medical issues, disabilities, learning difficulties and mental health conditions, as these situations are no longer acceptable grounds for extenuating circumstances.
One of the aims of the new regulations is to “foster a professional approach” through requiring students to “accept responsibility for their conduct” – after all, it’s not like some aspects of your life could ever be out of your control.
This gives us a glimpse into the university’s attitude towards the student body: UCL seems essentially distrusting of students, and regards struggles in the face of difficult personal circumstances as a sign of weakness, not a reality of life that affects us all. The university seems to suggest that a student can reasonably be expected not to experience any personal difficulties during a three-year degree – or at least, to be able to perform to their best ability regardless of any hardship. It’s our everyday reality as students after all.
UCL Defend Education, in conjunction with UCLU, has launched the #withoutEC campaign, collecting stories from students who have applied for extenuating circumstances in the past. Our goal is to highlight the importance of a fair and non-discriminatory extenuating circumstances policy, and to stress the importance of an adequate support system at university. The stories collected will be used (anonymously) to lobby UCL to repeal the new regulations.
So while you’re attending the funeral of a loved one, living off pot noodles for the third week in a row, or crying yourself to sleep every night from sheer stress and exhaustion, while your flat in halls has no hot water (again), just remember: UCL is “committed to the wellbeing and safety of our students” and seeks to “ensure your university experience is a fulfilling, healthy and enjoyable one”. Just don’t ask for an extension.
Share your stories of what life would be like #withoutEC – see www.facebook.com/withoutec