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Take action: How to get involved to help mend a broken university experience

Roar writer Camilla Alcini on how King’s students are taking action as the university fails to deliver an adequate academic and social experience

Even though we are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, the pandemic has had a profound impact on students worldwide for the last year. King’s College London was, of course, no exception. With teaching being moved almost entirely online and a great part of student life disrupted, people started getting angry. At the government, institutions and, eventually, the university.

The patience to bear with the continuous adjustments during these unprecedented times has an expiration date. And as a consequence, protests started to pop up as anger and discontent grew.

Here are some of King’s active advocacy groups you want to know about:

Keep It Real KCL
After a year of so-called “blended learning”, Keep It Real KCL (KIRK) wants the university to return to pre-pandemic teaching, which is in line with government safety guidelines. What has been normal for the past year of lockdowns, rising cases and deaths should not be forever as the pandemic begins to subside.
There is a real fear that universities will become online institutions. Recently, the University of Manchester announced that it would be permanently moving its lectures online and its possible that other well-regarded universities may follow.
KIRK strongly protests against this measure, claiming that it would have a detrimental effect on student wellbeing, sense of community and on the overall educational experience:
“It started when KCL sent out a message to all students stating that they would not be able to confirm a full return to in-person teaching for the coming semester, against clear government guidance
“We have been campaigning from our living rooms all summer, talking to members from the NUS, UCAS and all of the top UK universities trying to found out the best way of reversing what we see as a fundamental, and wholly negative, change to university life” , explains Joseph Wiltshire, the campaign organiser.
When asked about what’s next, the KIRK’s plan is clear: “When we get the funding that we need, then the plan is student awareness. Most students that I have spoken to about this have not even known it was happening. As soon as they find out, however, they become as passionate as we are in a flash. I haven’t found a student educated on the issue who hasn’t been in total agreement that it is wrong”.
Eventually we want to work with other student unions across the country. This is such a national problem, and one that effects everyone in the same way, so I feel like it deserves a national campaign that involves all student unions”.
To learn more about or get involved in KIRK visit their Instagram page, @keepitrealKCL
KCL Complaints

KCL complaints, aka Complaints College London, was born in April this year but its Instagram feed already features 74 posts. Each features a query or complaint that a student has and is organised by course, ranging from Politics to Medicine. 

Most are exposing the shortcomings of their course, incompetence of university lecturers and admin. However, a special section is dedicated to protests regarding student-staff behaviour. In fact, there was even one complaint of harassment back in May.

All the complaints are reduced to 9 points of their campaign, which include a feedback threshold, a feedback deadline and an assignment freeze window during the holidays.

To learn more about or get involved with KCL Complaints visit their Instagram page, @kcl_complaints

KCL for Tuition Fee Reduction

Why should we pay £9,250 a year for a glorified version of Open University? This simple question sums up KCL For Tuition Fee Reduction’s core argument.

But there is more to its protests. The debate around fees was in the eye of the storm back in 2017, when tuition fees were increased by £250. It had since died down but the pandemic’s shift to online learning put it back on in the spotlight as many people started wondering what exactly they were paying for. Online lectures, seminars, workshops along with a locked down campus made the academic experience lacklustre. Moreover, there was zero chance of enjoying the best part of uni: socialising with your peers.

“I started it on the 6th of July after I saw an email from Kings that everyone received telling us how much our tuition fees would be, and it really upset me when I saw that it would remain the same for UK students and increase a bit for international students. I knew that this couldn’t be justified. Therefore I began to look for active campaigns and couldn’t find many. So I started my own and then I asked a few people to join me”, tells Abdus Shaik, founder of this campaign.
With the help of Anushka and Sudi, Abdus reached out to KCLSU for some help:
“We have also tried contacting the president and vice presidents of the KCLSU via Instagram. None of the vice presidents got back to us despite promising a tuition fee refund in their campaigns even though they saw our messages. But we will email all of them again and wait for their response. We hope that they will appreciate our effort and support us”.
The plan of KCL TFR is clear: “When university starts in September, our plan is to bring the campaign offline with peaceful protests and hold talks and meetings. Our idea is that we represent the students. Our committee is made of 20k+ students and we are just the glue that pulls all of us together, unites us against the injustice that’s being done to us”.
To learn more about or get involved with KCL For Tuition Fee Reduction visit their Instagram page, @kcl_tfr
KCL Scrap the Fees

“Refund. Review. Rethink” is the motto of the KCL Scrap the Fees (KCL STF) movement. Similarly to kcl_trf (see above), KCL STF aims to put their students before profit and reduce tuition fees. There is a special focus on the treatment received by people who failed to pay the fees on time this past year and got suspended.

Roar reported on the Scrap the Fees movement back in March after the university was noncommittal about returning to in-person teaching as per government guidance. Students were also furious when then-King’s Vice President Evelyn Welch’s responded to students’ complaints by saying “you’re still getting your degree”.
To learn more about or get involved with KCL Scrap the Fees visit their Instagram page, @kclscrapthefees

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