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A formal investigation is underway at Cardiff University following complaints from some student nurses that they had been “set up to fail” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of adult and mental health final-year nursing students have raised concerns with the university about what is being expected of them in the final months of their programmes.
“We do not want to be so overwhelmed that we cannot complete our course”
They were among thousands of student nurses who were asked by the government to disrupt their studies in April and join the frontline response to Covid-19 by taking on paid clinical placements.
During this time, their theory work was “suspended”.
As they return to their normal studies, they are concerned that they have not been left with enough time to catch up on missed learning.
The students are part of a cohort that started in March and had been scheduled to finish their courses in December 2020.
Due to the pandemic, their end date has been extended to February 2021, but it still means their timeslot for completing their third-year academic work has reduced from 10 months to six months.
One student has spoken to Nursing Times anonymously on behalf of the group, which has lodged a complaint with Cardiff University’s official student complaints service.
They said along with a reduced timeframe, students were being expected to see out their studies “without essential resources such as libraries, supervision sessions and computers”.
Those with dyslexia were at an even bigger disadvantage because they did not have access to student support services, which had been closed because of the pandemic, they added.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council has put measures in place to allow universities to be more flexible to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, as long as courses continue to meet NMC standards.
However, the student nurse told Nursing Times they felt that Cardiff University was not offering the group the same level of “academic relief” as other universities in the UK were.
Students in this cohort were being asked to “write a dissertation, do an exam, presentation and our portfolios”, whilst working 37.5 hours a week on their management placement.
“We are not asking for a free ride, but we are asking that Cardiff University offer the same level of relief that other universities have,” they added.
“We want grades that will reflect our holistically hard work, and we do not want to be so overwhelmed that we cannot complete our course.”
The cohort had an online meeting with lecturers in the middle of August to air their concerns, however student nurses felt they were not being listened to.
“We are students, and ultimately, we will make up the NHS nursing workforce. We have offered so much, and feel entirely let down,” said the student.
“Our university have repeatedly dismissed our concerns and even spent the majority of our most recent meeting telling us that we should be more considerate to the university.”
“We recognise there are concerns from some students”
The nursing cohort is now escalating the issue via the university’s own complaints procedure.
They are calling for “reduced theory work” and “to be able to meet module outcomes on placement” instead of via academic work.
Cardiff University confirmed that a “formal investigation is now underway”.
Professor David Whitaker, head of the school of healthcare sciences, said most of its final-year students had taken on paid placements and that the university was “extremely grateful” to them for supporting the NHS.
“To account for this time away from their formal studies and to ensure students are still able to meet our robust academic standards, we have produced a revised timeline and extended our academic year to provide the equivalent opportunity for theoretical study and supervised clinical placement,” he said.
“We recognise there are concerns from some students and we have taken steps to try to address these promptly – a formal investigation is now underway in line with Cardiff University’s student complaints procedure.”
He also noted that the university had a framework in place for supporting all students through the crisis.