How many fines did south west London universities hand out during the pandemic?

SWL collected data from three universities based in the area to see how students were dealt with if they were found in breach of Covid rules at various points during the lockdown.

University of Roehampton, St Mary’s University Twickenham and Kingston University all shared data to SWL in response to Freedom of Information requests made over the summer. 

All three dealt with incidents of misconduct differently to each other, with St Mary’s handing out the most in fines, considerably more than Kingston and Roehampton. 

Findings of gross misconduct for matters relating to breaches of Covid restrictions were made against 21 students. 

In total, £2,700 in fines was issued to those failing to adhere to restrictions in place at the time the fine was issued. 

The University told SWL how they took into consideration the seriousness of the matter, how many instances occurred, whether the student had instigated the instance and whether they had already been given a warning. 

They explained the University’s Student Disciplinary Procedure defines gross misconduct as: “Intentional or reckless behaviour that constitutes a threat to the personal safety of staff and students of the University or  visitors to the University.

“Acts which violate the provisions of the health and safety rules, and regulations of the University or our Study Abroad or Collaborative Partners.

The University confirmed any fines made payable by students are transferred for use towards the Student Hardship Fund. 

FINES: 21 students at St Mary’s had to pay fines of £50 or over due to breaching Covid restrictions

A spokesperson for St Mary’s University said:  “At the start of the 2020-21 academic year we launched our Stay Safe at St Mary’s campaign to ensure our campus was a comfortable and secure learning environment for all of our academic community. 

“We are proud of the way our students have risen to the challenges that the pandemic has presented, and how they have adapted to the guidance as it has changed through the year.”

The data also reveals three of the 21 students were subject to further punishment, with two excluded from campus accommodation for a specified period and one excluded from specified area of campus for a specified period.

Ahmed El Hana, the current Student Life President at St Mary’s University, spoke out on how the SU at had supported students through the pandemic and noted how tough the time had  been for those remaining at the university at this time. 

He told SWL: “All of the SU officer team were completing our final years, so we know that the past year has been tough for students across the country. 

“The students’ union were really supportive during the different lockdowns. They worked with the university to prepare isolation packs for students self-isolating, which were full of treats to keep their spirits up, and they arranged a big virtual social calendar to keep us entertained when we couldn’t go out.”

Ahmed went on to share: “The Simmie student community at St Mary’s is a really positive one, and we all pulled together when times got tough during the pandemic.”

Roehampton saw the largest number of students face disciplinary action, with 112 found to be breaching Covid regulations since the start of the pandemic.

STUDENT BODY: Number of students attending each of the three universities

This was for a variety of reasons – with the University citing the most common reasons as allowing visitors into student halls, failing to wear masks when required and organising parties. 

The university told SWL: “The safety of our staff and students is our highest priority and we have a robust Covid-19 management system in place which has helped to keep the number of cases on campus at a very low level.

“One hundred and twelve students have faced disciplinary action, in the 2020/21 academic year, for breaches of the University Covid-19 rules. All were low level disciplinary proceedings and were primarily for breaches of social distancing guidelines. As a result, the students concerned were either given a warning or asked to undertake community service activities.

They went on to clarify the two students receiving fines came after a system was introduced back in January to deal with more serious breaches. 

They said: “Two students received fines in the second half of the academic year.”

Only two of those 112 students had to pay fines to the university as a result, with both issued fines for organising parties in their accommodation.

Kingston was the only one of the three not to hand out any monetary fines to students who were “alleged to have breached Covid rules.”

They carried out 42 disciplinary interviews, with 21 students having a formal warning issued due to their behaviour. 

Two students were issued with a notice to quit their accommodation as a result of behaviour. 

A Kingston University spokesperson said in response to the data: “The health, wellbeing and safety of our students, staff, visitors and the wider community has been Kingston University’s top priority throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The University has consistently acted in line with the latest advice from the government and public health authorities, putting a number of measures in place to minimise the risk of infection and make our campuses as safe as possible.”

They went on to say how all members of the university community have been encouraged to play their part in keeping a supportive environment throughout the pandemic.

The spokesperson added: “Students and staff have acted extremely responsibly throughout the pandemic, proactively looking out for one another, adhering to the commitments in our community pledge and doing everything possible to help minimise the spread of Covid-19.

“Students have played an important role in supporting the smooth operation of our testing and vaccination efforts, including working as marshals to help guide people around our campus facilities, volunteering in the community, working in both frontline and support roles within the NHS and taking personal responsibility to help make sure the areas in which they live and study are as safe as they can be.

“There have only been a handful of isolated instances in which the University has been informed of concerns about student behaviour. It has always acted swiftly to investigate and address these matters as appropriate.”

Featured Image Credit: Andy Scott

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