A number of students studying in the Faculty of Environmental and Natural Sciences were not given the four-day deadline extension on coursework promised by the University of Southampton as a result of a systems shutdown at the start of January.
Those studying BIOL2004 (Applied Population) and BIOL3009 (Applied Ecology) were sent an email by a senior administrative officer on the 20th December stating: “The Coursework submission date will still be the same original date of 09 January 2012 and will NOT be extended by 4 days due to the University IT shut down.”
Sasha Watson, Vice-President Academic Affairs of SUSU and the officer who negotiated the deal with the University on students’ behalf, told the Wessex Scene in December he was “adamant that all students will get their extensions.”
However, it now seems this was not the case.
A Biology student told the Wessex Scene: “With the deadline not being pushed back and the network being down it did cause extra hassle. It was not expressed to us at all why the deadline was not pushed back.
“Overall, very little information was passed on to us students as to the reasons behind why there was no extension and I feel this is unsatisfactory, as the majority if not all deadlines within each degree principle were extended.”
In a statement delivered on Thursday, the university said:
“The deadline to hand in coursework for 2nd year students on module BIOL2004 was in December and teaching staff had already granted them an extension into January for reasons unrelated to the outage.
“The deadline for part of the 3rd year students’ coursework on module BIOL3009 was 9 January 2012. This deadline was already very close to scheduled examinations and extending this for a further 4 days wouldn’t have given enough time for important feedback to be communicated to students ahead of their exams. Students were informed of the decision to maintain the original 9 January deadline by email. The University has made a commitment to improve feedback to students and it was felt that this should be the priority in this case.
“For the vast majority of students the extension to deadlines was managed successfully. However, we recognise for this group of students we could have communicated information about their deadlines more effectively. The University will continue to work to improve communication with students.”
Key figures within the faculty, including the Programme Leader of Biology and Zoology and the Director of Programmes for the Centre of Biological Sciences, were allegedly unaware of the issue.
Academic President for Biological Sciences Sophie Kamperis said “This is fair enough, but i don’t think [the reasons]were echoed well to the cohort of students it affected.”
“It is important that the students were given a reasonable explanation. The email sent to them was blunt and had no explanation behind it.”
The University had announced the system downtime, from the third to the sixth of January, prior to the Christmas break. After talks with the students’ union, it was decided that all students, regardless of module or year of study, were to be given an extension of four working days on all pieces of coursework due in the first month back.
The three-day outage of University systems was down to a joint undertaking between iSolutions and Estates and Facilities that aimed to improve the backup power supply to the current data centre. Ahead of the power outage, the University had set up a website to keep students and staff informed of the latest developments.
Vice-President Academic Affairs Sasha Watson said the decision to not implement the extension was “sensible” although recognised that it “wasn’t communicated to students properly at all.”
Mr Watson said: “If students are to receive different levels of treatment – even if it’s for their benefit – it’s vital that the reason is made explicitly clear, otherwise students will naturally assume that they are being given an unfair deal.”
It’s about students being proactive and knowing their rights.Sophie KamperisAcademic President
Neither Course Representatives nor the Academic President of Biology were made aware of the issue by the affected students until after the deadline date had passed. This meant they were not able to raise their concerns with the appropriate staff members.
Course Representatives’ main objectives are to make themselves known to their course mates, providing a link between students and University staff, as well as a link between students and SUSU.
Mr Watson called it a “shame” that students didn’t raise the issue with their representatives, highlighting that the volunteers “are able to quickly and deal effectively with concerns of students and get clarification on issues.”
“If students have any concerns, their course rep details can now be found on the SUSU Education page by following the appropriate link and logging in.”
The SUSU Education page can be found here.