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1. To mandate officers to oppose working with prevent and the governments counter- radicalisation strategy

9th February 2016. (428th Meeting, Students Union Council)
Primary Officer: All Officers

What:

  • To mandate the officers of this union to not support the implementation of the PREVENT strategy (or any of the proposals of the Act to which they are not legally bound) in any university meetings they attend. They are also mandated to boycott it as far as legally possible.
  • To release a statement expressing our opposition to PREVENT and the CTS Act for being racist and a threat to academic freedom and civil liberties.
  • To work with campus trade unions including UCU on combating the PREVENT strategy and its implementation on campus.
  • To educate students on the dangers of the CTS Act and the PREVENT strategy.
  • To lobby the university to be more open and transparent about how they are engaging with PREVENT and other similar initiatives involving:
    • Demanding publications of how the policy is operating within the university and Students' Union.
    • This includes access to materials used to train staff and students.
    • Holding consultations with the student body regarding how this affects students.
  • To lobby the college/university to publicly condemn PREVENT and the CTS Act and to call for its repeal.

Why:

PREVENT was introduced in 2006 as a ‘counter-extremism’ strategy.

  • With the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, implementing PREVENT became a statutory obligation on ‘specified authorities’ including universities (known as the ‘Prevent duty’).
  • The Prevent duty places a duty on universities to ‘prevent people being...drawn into terrorism’ and outlines a number of measures that institutions are expected to undertake to ensure this, including alterations to speaker policies, risk assessments and so on.
  • PREVENT has long been criticised for essentially institutionalising Islamophobia and racism - the government literature on PREVENT overwhelmingly and disproportionately focuses on Muslim communities as being at risk of ‘extremism.
  • In practice it has followed from this that Muslims are overwhelmingly targetted for referrals and investigation through PREVENT - between April 2012 and March 2014 over 80% of referrals for whom their religion was known were Muslim.
  • PREVENT has been labelled a ‘toxic brand’ and a failed policy; there is little to no empirical evidence supporting its fundamental proposals, and 4 in 5 referrals through PREVENT are dismissed as unworthy of further assessment. Thus all PREVENT achieves is in fomenting a climate of fear, suspicion and censorship.
  • PREVENT and the Counter-terrorism and Security Act have been condemned by a number of national unions including the NUS and UCU, as well as Liberty and Defend the Right to Protest, on the grounds that it will stifle the right to challenge and critique government policy, whip up further Islamophobia, and have a ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of speech.
  • PREVENT has legitimised mass state surveillance of Muslim communities in Britain, and this has begun to extend further outwards now - non-criminal, non-violent forms of dissent are being designated ‘extremist’ and in need of intervention through counter-terrorism measures.
  • This has grave implications for many of our members, especially politically active and/or Muslim students at Nottingham.

Evidence:

  • Preventing PREVENT Handbook. Who supports your idea/who have you consulted with about it
  • There is large consensus amongst Muslims/people of colour around the country that this is a system of racial profiling and stigmatizes these groups rather than addressing any issues.
  • Students of colour and Muslim students in Nottingham have expressed concern and there have been discussions between them and the university.
  • An event held in November on islamophobia widely accepted the discussion on how Prevent is a form of silencing dissent.

2. Grade Point Average (GPA) as an alternative to degree classifications

9th February 2016. (430th Meeting, Students Union Council)
Primary Officer: Education Officer

What:

  • To lobby the University against the introduction of a sole GPA system as an alternative to degree classifications.
  • To campaign on a national level against the introduction of a sole GPA system as an alternative to degree classifications.
  • To monitor the recommendations made by the government relating to GPA systems in the UK Higher Education sector.

Why:

A number of Russell Group institutions including the University of Nottingham are considering moving to a Grade Point Average (GPA) system for marking and grading.

This method could involve assessment components being marked in discrete grades (A, A-, B+, etc.) over continuous percentage points and the possibility of entire modules being given grades over percentages.

Converting between continuous marks to discrete grades under GPA would negatively impact the accuracy of students’ overall marks.

The HEA proposal for a GPA system in the UK only addresses academic assessments which only represent a portion of a student’s achievements.

The American GPA system rewards extra-curricular activities and other additional academic accomplishments which, without much more consideration and planning, the UK system does not currently have the scope to include.

Considering the variation in current GPA systems (some go up to 4.25, some as high as 5.0), a sole GPA system would provide less consistency than the current classification system as it may differ between UK institutions.

Internationally, the HEA proposal for a GPA system in the UK would be no more consistent as it differs from GPA systems in other countries, including China and Malaysia where the University of Nottingham has campuses.

Therefore a move to a solely GPA system would be detrimental to students seeking employment and further study both at home and abroad as a result of its inconsistencies and incomparability.

Unless the entire UK Higher Education sector changes to GPA simultaneously, a move to GPA may also de-value degrees marked with classifications and vice-versa or lead to a two-tier degree system.

3. Support STAR's Access Campaign to lobby the University to provide more financial aid to refugee and asylum seeker students

2nd March 2017. (431st Meeting, Students Union Council)
Primary Officer: President

Secondary Officer: International

 

What is the policy?

This policy calls for the Students’ Union to support and progress STAR’s (Student Action for Refugees) Equal Access campaign.

The aim of this campaign is to persuade the University of Nottingham to adopt a fair and equitable approach in providing access to higher education on the basis of merit for refugees, asylum seekers and those granted discretionary leave to remain (DLR) or for humanitarian protection.

Why do we want the SU to adopt this policy?

  • The University has failed to effectively respond to developments of the ongoing refugee crisis.
  • The University offers two awards aimed specifically at these groups but STAR Nottingham considers these awards to be inadequate. Only one can be claimed by an individual.
  • Asylum seekers have no access to student loans or grants, effectively excluding them from accessing higher education.
  • Higher education institutions have a moral duty to make provision for these groups who greatly contribute to the intellectual and social life of university campuses.
  • The scope of the SU’s obligations in the recently lapsed policy were narrow and limited.
  • Many other reputable UK universities have adopted similar policies.

This could be achieved by all of the following:

  • Providing more financial support in the form of accommodation and tuition fee bursaries and scholarships to at least ten refugees, asylum seekers, those with DLR or humanitarian protection,
  • Categorising those with DLR and asylum seekers as home students instead of international students,
  • and allowing the two above groups to apply for university grants, scholarships and bursaries,
  • Waiving tuition fees altogether for five refugees, asylum seekers or those with humanitarian or DLR,
  • Publicising the equal access policies so that potential students are aware of applying for these bursaries and scholarships.

The SU can contribute towards these goals in a number of different ways.

STAR Nottingham proposes that the SU:

  • Endorses this campaign and supports its implementation,
  • Lobbies the university to remove the financial barriers inhibiting the aforementioned groups from studying at UoN,
  • Facilitates meetings between the Vice Chancellor, relevant SU officers and STAR Nottingham representatives to discuss how equal access can be achieved,
  • Writes a letter to the Vice Chancellor outlining the benefits of providing equal access to higher education to this university, and to liaise with STAR Nottingham in the creation of this letter.
  • Collects signatures on behalf of STAR Nottingham for the Equal Access campaign.
  • Persuades other Students’ Unions to develop their own campaigns.

Who supports the policy?

  • STAR Nottingham has collected hundreds of signatures from students in support of the policy.
  • The National Union of Students and Student Action for Refugees (the national charity) are championing Equal Access.
  • This motion has been personally endorsed by the current SU President and SU International Officer.