As Cambridge University Students’ Union and the Graduate Union transitioned into one union for all students – CambridgeSU- we also transitioned into a service with a new name: Student Advice Service. Our core values which govern how we work with students have remained the same – we provide confidential, impartial and independent advice to all students at Cambridge, undergraduate and postgraduate from any course and College. Students can come to us for support with any questions, issues or concerns they might have, College or University related. This could be anything from finances, complaints or course issues or you need help with examinations or welfare concerns. As generalist advisers, we complement other more specialised University service providers such as the Counselling Service or the Disability Resource Centre which deal with specific issues such as mental health and disabilities. While we may not be trained therapists or counsellors, we are here for all students who might just need a listening ear in a non-judgemental and confidential space.
In the current climate, we have adapted well to the ‘new normal’ ensuring that we remain accessible to our service-users as well as providing the same level of service. Similarly to most other services in the University and Colleges, we have moved our work online, with appointments available over the phone, online (zoom, teams or skype), or via email. Although we are no longer able to meet students face to face, which we all miss, students can expect to be warmly welcomed by all members of our friendly and approachable team.
At the start of the lockdown and throughout this time we have supported students with a range of issues – from accommodation, examinations, extensions, intermission to welfare. In the months of April, May and June we recorded 119 students that accessed our service for support. Of those 119 students, around 30% indicated that their issues related to housing and financial worries. This has not been surprising as most of the work we have done during those months has been influenced by the rapid changes sparked by the pandemic. Some of these changes have had an impact on students’ accommodation and financial situation.
It has been a challenging time for a lot of us – students have had to adapt to a new way of learning, socializing, doing their assessments and, for some, it has been financially difficult. We have had to adapt to all these changes rapidly, keep up with the ever changing and new information issued by the University and the Colleges. Times like this, although difficult, can prove to bring people closer and form better relationships with our peers. For us, as an advice service, we have been grateful for all the good work that the Sabbatical team has done to represent students in their meetings with the University and Colleges. This has also meant that we had access to a great source of information on proposed changes which had a potential impact on students. It has been a great opportunity for us to feedback the concerns and issues that some students came to our service with. Part of the work that we do, not only is it to inform students and advise on processes, guidance and regulations already available to them, we also listen to students’ experience and feedback to the Sabbatical team. Through their campaign work they might be able to spark changes which will improve the student’s time at Cambridge.
We hope that every student has a positive experience, and if they do have any concerns or questions, we are here to support them.
You can contact our service on 01223 746999, email@example.com, or fill in our contact forms available on the CambridgeSU website: www.cambridgesu.co.uk/support/advice/contact/.