Swansea University Students’ Union Advice and Support Centre
By Chris Ravenhill
There has been an advice centre at Swansea University, fully funded and supported by the Students’ Union, for over thirty years. We currently have four advisers and split our time between Singleton and Bay campus. Under normal circumstances, we have drop-ins at both campuses between 9.30am and 4.30pm. The Singleton office is based in Fulton House and the Bay office is in Ty Twnwi. We are also available in the Carmarthen campus with a drop in and an appointment system. But these are not normal times, and we are not holding drop-in or face to face meetings at any campus; we haven’t since March 2019.
This does not mean that we are not operating as closely to normal as possible.
We are available via telephone, email and through zoom drop-ins three mornings a week (details below).
During the previous academic year, the ASC opened over 1,000 new cases and we have dealt with over 1,000 cases in the year 2020.
The categories are varied. By far, the largest is the academic work, where we opened 515 cases in 2019/20, generating over 3,500 work completed items.
Academic cases include: appeals, final stage reviews, complaints, disciplinary, extenuating circumstances, and academic misconduct. We also represent people in college hearings and academic registry committees. We have many years of supporting students with academic misconduct allegations; in our experience many of the cases we see are due to student inexperience combined with a misunderstanding of good academic practice. We offer advice regarding exceptional circumstances, which can often affect students’ abilities during assessments and exams due to stress and anxiety, particularly due to lockdowns and COVID-19 outbreaks. We have a good understanding of the university regulations, and can offer advice and suggestions on how to best present cases to colleges and the academic registry.
Accommodation is an important part of the student experience at university. It can take up almost all the student maintenance loan – as such, value for money is paramount.
The ASC has an adviser who has many years of experience, previously working as a housing lawyer. We offer help with both university and private sector student accommodation; this includes finding accommodation. We are aware of good and bad landlords and agents, and can advise accordingly. During the 2019/20 year, we managed to get back over £90,000 for students in compensation, illegal charges, and deposits. We are here to make accommodation issues easier and less stressful.
The ASC advises on most aspects of student life, whether it is employment, debt, student finance, legal issues, or welfare benefits. We advise and help with disability benefits, universal credit, and Personal Independent Payments (PIP), including representation at benefit tribunals if necessary.
Support is another aspect of the ASC work. This includes harassment issues; we have three harassment advisers at the Advice Centre. We are a reporting centre and work with the authorities dealing with all aspects of hate crime, including that on social media. Be aware that the university treats all cases of hate crime very seriously and a disciplinary case can lead to dismissal from the university. We also have two Sexual Violence Liaison Officers (SVLO) at the ASC, who deal with reports and referrals where sexual assault has been raised.
Mental health issues have been shown to increase amongst students, particularly during the pandemic and lockdown, so we are supporting students via zoom. We are helping the university services at Wellbeing, Disability, LGBTQ+ and the Lighthouse by offering support to students suffering from depression, anxiety, bereavement, and loneliness.
Although we are currently unable to offer on-campus appointments/drop-ins due to compulsory social distancing measures, we are still able to offer advice via email, telephone and zoom. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
Phone: 01792 295 821
Zoom drop-ins: 9.30-12pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, where you will enter into a digital waiting room until one of our advisors is free to speak with you.
Article by Chris Ravenhill, manager (15 years with the ASC) with contributions by Hayley Harris, senior adviser (11 years), Donna Cleaver, adviser (3.5 years) and Jemma Stock, adviser (3.5 years)