Student Q&A with LSE leadership

On 15 March 2022 Director Minouche Shafik welcomed students from across LSE to our first hybrid Student Q&A.  

Joining her were members of the School Management Committee (SMC): Dilly Fung, Pro-Director (Education), Susana Mourato, Pro-Director (Research), Eric Neumayer (Planning and Resources) and Andrew Young (Chief Operating Officer). 

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Introduction from Minouche 

Minouche welcomed the in-person and online attendees of the Q&A, then gave a short School update.  

We’re reviewing our Socially Responsible Investment Policy - we know that has been a high priority for many students and we are launching a consultation process with our LSE community about what are investment policy should be. You can find out more information about how you can get involved and upcoming events here

We've also begun a review of student communications to consider how we make the communications you receive more streamlined. There will be continued opportunities to feed into this project and again, we would really value your input about how our School can communicate with you most effectively.  

It was acknowledged that this is a difficult time for many in the community, whether due to global events or localised, LSE-specific concerns such as exams and strike action. At times of difficulty, the LSE community comes together to talk, respectfully debate and support each other. Our community did a great job of showing kindness to each during the COVID pandemic, and we will continue that spirit of kindness and compassion going forward in what continue to be challenging times.  

Question and answer session 

During the Q&A two main topics – in-person exams and industrial strike action – were covered. The panel began by highlighting some of the pre-submitted questions before inviting questions from the in-person audience. 

Below each topic there is a summary of the panels response.

In-person exams

The Summer Term exams will be taking place in-person with some courses having online assessments. January exams were moved online due to the news of the Omicron variant – at the time we didn’t know how severe the situation would be and it would have been irresponsible of LSE leadership to insist on in-person exams. We don’t expect a change like that in the Summer Term unless there are unprecedented circumstances. We completely understand that uncertainty around exams can create concerns, and we are planning on maintaining our current plans for consistency.  

Under normal circumstances there is considerable diversity in which departments across our School assess students, even within programmes. As a result of the pandemic, we now have a greater variety of assessment methods, but the principle that we operate with remains the same - that the academic staff in your department decide, course by course, on what the right and best way is to assess your knowledge, understanding and skills and provide the best possible opportunity to demonstrate what you know. 

Due to disciplinary differences, it means that in some departments it's more likely that you'll have fully in-person exams and in others there will be more flexibility for different types of assessment. Dilly acknowledged that there are advantages and disadvantages to each mode of assessment, and that you may feel, unprepared for in-person exams, especially if you haven’t experienced them at LSE. 

To help you prepare for in-person exams, LSE LIFE will be providing advice and guidance to support you and provide opportunities to take mock exams. In addition, LSE LIFE have created a video with seven tips for handwritten exams.  

Postgraduate Resit and Deferred Assessment Period (RDAP)   

Questions about the postgraduate RDAP were also raised during the Q&A, and specifically why postgraduate students who need to resit January assessments must wait until the postgraduate RDAP in January 2023.  

The resit process is a large and complex structure, and there are many reasons why the current resit period has been put in place. For example, allowing students to sit deferred assessments in Summer Term could mean some students are expected to sit a large number of assessments in this period. It also raises equity issues for those who defer or need to resit Summer Term assessments, as well as those who need to resit failed January assessments – as the earliest opportunity for these students to resit is the following January, due to the marks needing to be processed and ratified alongside assessments taken in Summer Term.  

However, due to extensive discussions about the process, the review of the postgraduate RDAP is being brought forward.

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Industrial strike action

Moving on to the next topic, the panel covered a range of pre-submitted questions and those asked on the day on the topic of industrial strike action.  

Mitigations for students  

LSE is working to minimise the impact of strike action on our students in a variety of ways, and it's recognised that the impact of the strikes has been felt differently across our School. Work is being done to understand mitigations that have been put in place to minimise the detriment to students, which will vary across departments, and assessment of their effectiveness. 

In addition to extra support provisions, all pay deductions for industrial action will be directed to the student hardship fund to provide valuable support as and when needed.

Fee refunds and compensation  

As an evolving situation, we currently cannot fully assess the impact of industrial action on teaching and learning, or accurately evaluate if support and mitigations put in place sufficiently remedy the effect of strike activity. This is because measures will vary depending on your area of study and may be enacted now, later in the term and across the duration of your programme.  

Students should bear this in mind as compensation requests can’t be considered whist strike action continues and the full impact cannot be assessed. 

There will not be a blanket compensation payment, however, we would ask students to submit individual complaints which will be considered on an individual basis given the unique nature of the impact of strike action on each student. 

Find more details about fee refunds, compensation and the complaints procedure

Additional industrial action  

There will be a UCU vote in coming weeks which will determine whether industrial action will continue – staff at LSE will need to meet a 50% threshold to continue the strike. If further industrial action is agreed, we don’t yet know what this will entail. We are continuing to maintain a good working relationship with local unions to limit the impact on students.  

Throughout strike action, you can find additional support with LSE LIFE who can provide assessment and dissertation support – LSE LIFE will continue to offer support and will be increasing the resources available, as they always do around assessment periods, in the coming weeks.  

Keep up-to-date with information regarding strike action and find support.  

Questions were then opened up to discuss other topics

Pay inequality – ethnicity and gender 

We have made strides in gender equality in terms of pay and will be able to report a further improvement in the median difference between male and female pay. LSE ensures that all staff are paid above the London minimum wage, and we have introduced Fair Recruitment Advisors to aid recruitment in more senior roles in terms of both gender and ethnicity across professional services staff.   

Related to this, we turned to a pre-submitted question which highlighted the lack of African students represented in the student body at LSE, despite research focusing on the area being utilised in teaching. In response, the panel outlined the Race Equity Framework which defines the measures we’re taking across our School - as well as the Access and Participation Plan - which helps to improve access and diversity of our student body and the developments made in this area. We also have the Programme for African Leadership, which provides extra support to African students to become future leaders in Africa.  

Costs of programmes at LSE

LSE fees are in line with fees charged by international universities. The income from fees is reinvested and makes its way back to benefit students in multiple ways, including through the building of world-class facilities.  

LSE’s Socially Responsible Investment Policy 

LSE's Socially Responsible Investment Policy was created in 2015 and the policy is currently being reviewed as part of our Socially Responsible Investment Policy Consultation with events and opportunities to offer feedback until the end of term and this consultation will aim to establish investments in more sustainable options.  

Developing your career at LSE 

There is a difficult employment market currently, however, LSE Careers are actively working to run online and in-person events and opportunities for students from a range of backgrounds. If you haven’t already, speak to a Careers Consultant in a one-to-one to discuss your options and make use of the range of opportunities they offer such as micro-placements.  

As the Q&A drew to a close the panel thanked all those who attended and submitted questions. 

Further questions

We will be responding directly to those of you who submitted a question which was not answered during the Q&A. If you submitted an anonymous pre-submitted question which was not answered, we won’t be able to contact you directly to answer your question. If you would like a response to your question, you are welcome to resubmit using the Comments, Compliments and Concerns form.