Sheffield students compensated after course 'fails to meet standard promised'

Students at a Sheffield university have been compensated after a complaint their course failed to meet the standard promised was partially upheld.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 6:29 pm

Twenty-two postgraduate journalism students at Sheffield Hallam University have been awarded £500 each for the “distress and inconvenience” caused by their department ‘being unable to deliver some opportunities within the timescale of the course’.

The students have been studying remotely since March 25 when teaching was transferred online. That, they said, left them without access to equipment and software needed to complete some modules, as well as valuable networking opportunities.

A Sheffield Hallam University complaints panel upheld two of the nine complaints the students raised, relating to work placements and ‘the gaining of skills’.

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Sheffield Hallam University.

Lydia Turner, an MA International Journalism student, said: “We were a little bit disappointed because in an ideal scenario we would have liked to pursue it further to see if we could get more, but because everyone was struggling so bad we didn’t want to wait another 57 days.

"I feel it’s a win for them more than it’s a win for us. If we would have had time to continue with it then I think we definitely could have got a lot more.”

The University usually aims to to complete complaints of Lydia’s nature in 40 days, but took 17 days longer. Coupled with financial pressures caused by coronavirus, Lydia said the group felt obliged to accept the offer of £500 rather than take their complaint further.

The panel concluded: “In acknowledging your concerns in this regard, we did also note that the department has made and continues to make considerable positive steps to support you and we see this as substantial in mitigating this basis of complaint.”

The students will be able to come back in the first term of the next academic year to develop skills they were not able to previously, if they want and are able to.

Lydia, 22, from Coventry, said she was contacted by students at other universities in a similar position after The Star’s original article on this story was published in May, including a postgraduate journalism student at Leeds Trinity University who “was in the exact same position”. She advised the Leeds Trinity student on the best way to proceed with her complaint after previous complaints yielded no success. Twelve people on her course have since been awarded £550 compensation, Lydia said.

Lydia, who is now looking for a full-time job in journalism, said: “I definitely feel in that sense it’s not only helped the students on our course but those at another university as well. That makes it all more worthwhile.

"It shows it’s a national issue, not just one linked to our university. The exposure of the article connected us to more people with more stories, that gave us a platform.”

A Sheffield Hallam spokesperson said: “The University acknowledges the disappointment felt by the students due to a lack of available work placements and the opportunity to put skills into practice because of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdown.

“The panel’s decision to uphold parts of the complaint was made based on the inconvenience and distress caused by external factors. The Panel also recognised that the high quality of teaching and support on this course was effectively maintained during this unprecedented period.”

The students have also been offered “continued support and advice”, the spokesperson added.

Professor Malcolm Todd, deputy vice-chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said their student complaints process is “strictly confidential” and the University does not make the outcomes of such investigations public.