Students expected to return for exams regardless of dangerous weather

Steve Unwin

Steve Unwin

University of York students have been told that they are expected to do all they can to return to University next week for exams, regardless of the dangerous weather conditions.

Counties across Britain have seen an unprecedented level of snow fall over the past week. Ensuing weather conditions have caused the country to come to a virtual standstill, with North Yorkshire being one of the first and worst affected areas.

YUSU Academic Officer, Charlie Leyland, said: “The University has no standardised mitigating circumstances policy as yet, something YUSU has been lobbying them for over the past year, and the consultation is now in it’s final stage and ready to be implemented from September onwards.

“Many academic departments have left students uninformed about the urgency at which they should return to York, despite Spring Term beginning soon.”

An email sent out by the Department of Mathematics said that it expects “all students to make every reasonable effort to attend the exams as normal next week… You are reminded that you will not normally be admitted to the exam hall more than half an hour after the start of the examination and that no extra time will be allowed for lateness.”

The email added: “Obviously we do not want students to travel if this is foolhardy. However if the travel advice is ‘travel only if your journey is essential’ then we consider that getting to an exam counts as an ‘essential journey’.”

The Met Office have announced this week that severe icy conditions are set to follow the heavy snow in the next few days, making driving a great risk that should be avoided.

An AA spokesman said: “Drivers should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the break in the heavy snow – ice is far more dangerous to drive on than snow.”

In addition to the risk ice and snow poses to motorists, BBC News has reported today that train companies across Britain have cancelled numerous non-commuting services, with First TransPennine Express reporting many delays, especially at Northallerton and North Yorkshire. County councils across the U.K. have announced that they are limiting grit to major roads, as salt supplies continue to be in shortage.

International students travelling from overseas are also likely to experience delays and cancellations over the next week as they attempt to make their way back to York. All major airports are operating but passengers have been warned to expect delays, while a number of transatlantic Virgin flights have been cancelled.

University Press Officer David Garner told Nouse: “The University is open and running as normal. Term starts on Monday 11 January and we are expecting all students to return by then.

“We recognise that travel problems persist as a result of the adverse weather. Students should follow police and travel organisations’ advice. If students cannot return by the beginning of term because of weather or travel restrictions, they should let us know. We recommend that students allow extra time for travelling in order to arrive by the beginning of term.”

A Press Release posted on the University website said: “While we expect students to make every reasonable effort to return to University by the start of term on 11 January, your safety is paramount and if you have reason to believe this will be put at risk you should not travel.”

York is expected to see even more snow fall over the weekend, after days of problems tackling the icy conditions. Motorist Brian Lakin skidded on the ice to find himself in the path of an oncoming train in York, only closely avoiding a collision with the First TransPennine Express service from Hull to Manchester, whilst two people were taken to hospital following a head-on crash on the outskirts of York yesterday.

The Met Office are currently still advising people to “avoid travel if possible”.

Leyland added: “My advice to students affected, whether because they can’t get out of their drive, their flight has been cancelled, their children’s school has closed and they have no childcare arranged, is to collect as much evidence as possible and let the department know as soon as possible that you are unable to attend.”


  1. 8 Jan ’10 at 4:58 pm

    Chris Rogers

    It is absolutely appalling to hear that the university insists that students travel back to York for examinations given the treacherous weather conditions. Obviously the examination timetable is of far greater importance to Heslington Hall than the welfare of their students.

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  2. 9 Jan ’10 at 11:21 am

    Daniel Linderman

    This wouldn’t be the first time that the University has put cost and convenience before student welfare. With salt levels running low and the city having to ration the amount of grit they use, it’s no surprise that there have been a series of road accidents around york recently. For once, the University should just consider the ability to be pragmatic in their decisions rather than jump to decisions which could lead to harm to their own students. Personally, if it was a decision between an unsafe journey and an exam which could be taken again at some point or postponed for a week or so to ensure fairness amongst those taking the exam, I wouldn’t be so rash to force students into unsafe traveling.

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  3. 9 Jan ’10 at 5:08 pm

    The email referred to was sen out by a department, not “the University”. The advice on the website homepage is

    “While we expect students to make every reasonable effort to return to University by the start of term on 11 January, your safety is paramount and if you have reason to believe this will be put at risk you should not travel.

    Please follow police and travel organisations’ advice.

    If you will miss an exam (see the exam timetable for dates and times of exams) due to being unable to return to University because of the weather conditions, please keep a copy of the travel advice you have followed to use when submitting mitigation”.

    A bit different from the report!

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  4. i recieved an email from my departement and they said they if it was not possible to get back email someone and inform them you would be missing the exam

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  5. People need to stop moaning unless they’re travelling from the highlands. Trains are delayed but a few hours maximum. Everyone just wants more revision time. “Treacherous conditions”! Most major roads have been gritted. Man up and get back to York rather than spending time commenting on Nouse!

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  6. Anon – “Most major roads have been gritted”.

    Yes, but many of us live several miles from a main road, and in my area the (2-hourly) bus service has been cancelled because the village lanes are so dangerous!

    Ever tried cycling on ice?!!

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  7. Come on you southerners, where’s your war time spirit?

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  8. Steve Miller will sort the snow and ice out. dont worry

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  9. Fairly major rewrite to the report there, Laura – shouldn’t it say it’s been updated?

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  10. Looking at it, the sentence about a man’s body found in the Ouse has been removed, and 3 paragraphs have been added – none of the existing content changed apart from minor styling.

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  11. 11 Jan ’10 at 3:41 pm

    Optimus Prime

    Get Mr Plough to sort it out!

    Love and Peace xxx

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  12. Oh look the snow is melting.

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  13. Even if the snow doesn’t affect the number of people attending exams there’s a good chance it will have affected people’s revision for them in preventing them from getting back to university sooner, but what the university has said doesn’t seem to consider this. I would have thought that being able to have undisrupted access to revision resources was just as important as being physically able to attend the exam in terms of overall outcome.

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  14. 12 Jan ’10 at 5:05 pm

    disgruntled student

    Having duelled with the University in the past regarding mitigating circumstances, I would strongly advise all students – as a fellow student – make every endeavour to make your exam because it’s likely they will try to screw you over if you don’t make it. Stuff that affects your revision they don’t give a crap about, I tried to chase up through YUSU and then central uni some of the stuff they came out to me with, but in the end all I got was ‘life sucks’.

    And my circumstances were pretty mitigating, even if I say so myself. Ultimately from experience I have no faith in their mitigating circumstances system and so would never feel confident to miss an exam – even for personal safety reasons – as you can’t be sure they will be at all sympathetic. And if you mess up one exam even if it wasn’t your fault it could cost you a degree classification and a job. (which is what most of us are here for)

    That’s not to say they always mess up, I’m sure in many cases they are fine. But they are certainly not consistent enough to make it something you can trust, which is disappointing considering the process is supposed to be there for difficult times. On their open days they will say how it’s a lovely support network that will focus on your needs when things are going badly – in practice, it’s hit-or-miss depending on the staff you deal with.

    – tldr; Don’t trust the University with something as important as your degree classification and future career.

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  15. Disgruntled student, I can see where you’re coming from, but when you say “never feel confident to miss an exam – even for personal safety reasons – as you can’t be sure they will be at all sympathetic”, that just seems crazy to me. Are you saying you’d rather be dead than drop a classification on your degree? Staying alive should be everybody’s main priority during times like these no matter what else that might lead to.

    That being said, I managed to get myself back to York from Suffolk during the worst of the weather this weekend, and especially now that the country is becoming less white, I don’t see why anybody should have any excuse for missing exams unless they are overseas students and had cancelled flights.

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  16. 13 Jan ’10 at 3:20 pm

    disgruntled student

    Hi Paul, I guess it was a flippant remark, obviously I wouldn’t advocate that people be reckless with their lives, but you can’t equate my comment with preferring to be dead than having a degree. But consider if it was a job – if the roads were icy and bad you’d just call in saying its unsafe to drive… but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that with the Uni because they could turn around and say “well, you knew the weather was bad, you should have come back 3 weeks earlier and camped in the JCRC”.

    Maybe it’s the same for jobs, but I’m sure most people find a job where they can trust their managers to ‘be nice’, here we don’t have a balanced relationship with the Uni (we want what they have / can give us, they know this, this is why we need the Union for example), we can’t just up and leave if we feel mistreated because its such a commitment of time and money. Because of this there isn’t ‘pressure’ on the Uni in the same way if students were free to come and go with their tuition fees etc. to actually step up and look after secondary concerns like student welfare.

    That’s not to say that staff members aren’t nice, it’s just they aren’t incentivised to *be* nice, so it comes down to personal character traits. When the Uni takes on a new teaching fellow or whatever they look for academic brilliance and other such criteria, rather than the ability to teach (one would presume this correlates with academic merit at least) and ‘niceness’ (which in itself is difficult to quantify).

    The obvious way round this is to have specialised staff helping with the secondary needs of students but I believe this is an area the University has neglected because, well, it doesn’t automatically meet their core objectives. Focusing on their core objectives (increased prestige, more funding, etc.) in theory trickles down into these other areas.

    You can see this neglect across the board with regards to the Uni, with cuts to security, no unified mitigating circumstances procedures, lack of investment in campus bars and so on.

    Now, having said all this, I don’t necessarily think this is inheritly bad, I think it’s good that the University looks after itself. But the relationship between establishment and student is horribly imbalanced, and a lot of the ‘old fashioned’ systems of pastoral support have broken down (personal relationship with tutors for example). But because students value their degree *so* much, they put up with it. Stinks of unfairness in my opinion.

    Sorry for the ramble.

    Ultimately, nothing will change in our time at uni, so my advice to other students remains the same – make sure to look after yourself and don’t depend on the Uni for help in general. I don’t think they provide a very reliable safety net and the last thing anyone wants is someone slipping through.

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  17. “You can see this neglect across the board with regards to the Uni, with cuts to security, no unified mitigating circumstances procedures, lack of investment in campus bars and so on.”

    Concerning ‘cuts to security’ (by which you probably mean portering, which is not the same thing) and ‘lack of investment in campus bars’, you may want to read this –

    This is of course not the point of this discussion, so I will now shut up and continue revising for my exam tomorrow – for which I have traveled back from the other side of the continent with no problem whatsoever.

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  18. ‘Sorry for the ramble’. Oh! I didn’t realise you went out for a walk halfway through writing that. No need to apologise.

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