In 2011, the campaign “Degrading is Degrading” looked at a lot of the aspects of what was formerly known as the degrading process (when a undergraduate student intermits from their course due to health or personal reasons – yes that’s really what it used to be called called) and some of the horribly degrading aspects of this process (starting with the name). A few examples included:

  • This can include rules that require a student to leave Cambridge for the duration that they are degraded, despite that probably being the focus of their friendship network or if they are allowed to live in Cambridge they are banned from their college, and have been verbally abused on return or fined because of not picking up mail sent only to their college pigeon hole.
  • There are also rules about only being able to leave if you are not fit to work, which can prevent students supporting themselves while they are away from college.
  • Rules that require and work on the assumption that students are studying full time until they are granted permission to degrade, in some cases students have be forced and pushed into attending lectures when far too ill and at cost to their health
  • Difficulties with medical evidence which is very white and black where you are required at the end of each degraded period to either proof you are unfit to return or that you are fit to return.
    We have heard of potential plans to limit degrading to two years except in exceptional circumstances, potentially leading to students returning when ill or being excluded from their degree.
  • Whilst the DRC are sometimes informed by colleges, there is no consistent and established process across the colleges for sharing information with Disability Resource Centre if a student degrades (even if it is for disability-related reasons), or for informing the DRC when they are expected to return, which means that students often have little or no support in place at a time that can be extremely difficult already. This is particularly the case where the student may be entitled to support as a disabled student, because of an invisible condition, such as a long term mental health condition.

And this is a few examples. The Disabled Students’ Campaign campaigned for a fairer, less degrading system giving students needing to intermit the respect they deserve.

A petition was submitted to the University in December 2011 with 1681 signatures. It called on the University to:

  • Change the name of the process to intermitting or some other neutral term
  • Remove any and all restrictions of movements of students, not requiring students to leave Cambridge or for Cambridge based students to be banned from their college.
  • To communicate properly with the DRC about individual students referring all students who degrade for medical reasons to the DRC and providing information as to when they return.
  • Work with the DRC and Degrading is Degrading Campaign to produce detailed policy on the degrading process to be made accessible to all students and be enacted equally throughout the University.