Royal Holloway accused of insensitivity after student’s mother diagnosed with cancer

Kyle Hoekstra

A Royal Holloway geology first-year who halted her studies earlier this year following her mother’s diagnosis with terminal cancer faced obstructive college authorities who were “blunt to the point of insensitivity,” according to her father.

Writing in the Catholic Herald, Colin Brazier, a presenter for Sky News, describes how his daughter encountered “a difficult choice: drop out and forfeit all the work she’s done, or be absent from her mother’s side during what may be the final few weeks of her life.”

But Mr Brazier says that staff at Royal Holloway insisted on seeing proof of the illness and that the student leave her campus residence within days.

The student has halted her studies and will resume them in September.

On Friday evening, Principal Paul Layzell tweeted that reports of the student feeling “let down” were “a concern”, and that he was “sorry for the additional distress we caused at this very difficult time. We’ve learned a lesson for the future.”

Jo Brazier, formerly head of foreign news at Sky, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer over five years ago but recently learned that her cancer has returned and is terminal.

In his piece in the Catholic Herald, her husband Colin spoke of “her ebullience, common sense and kindness.”

A Royal Holloway spokesperson shared the following statement with news agencies:

“Royal Holloway, University of London, is a close knit community and we take the welfare and well-being of all our students very seriously.

“We recognise that circumstances may mean a student needs to interrupt their studies and, when this happens, we always seek to be supportive and sensitive to the individual concerned.

“However, there are a number of steps we must follow to ensure that the reason for the break in studies is properly recorded. We always hope that the student will be able to resume their studies.

“By going through these steps, it means that, if the student wishes to resume their studies in the future, their return to university can be as seamless as possible. We appreciate that the wording of documents and information which need to be completed may seem very formal, particularly, as in the case of Mr Brazier’s daughter, when the circumstances surrounding the interruption are already very distressing.

“We would like to take this opportunity to offer our apologies to the family for any additional distress the procedures required for interruption caused. This was never our intention, and we will look again at our approach so that we can learn and improve for the future.”

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Featured image: Royal Holloway.


*Brazier’s full comments about Royal Holloway in his article in the Catholic Herald:

“The only sour note was struck by staff at Royal Holloway College, which is part of the University of London. Our eldest is in the first year of a geology degree there. She enjoys the course and has been doing well. She faced a difficult choice: drop out and forfeit all the work she’s done, or be absent from her mother’s side during what may be the final few weeks of her life.

Bravely, and without prompting, she has decided to halt her studies and start again in September. The college authorities were blunt to the point of insensitivity. They wanted to see proof of her mother’s illness and insisted that she leave her hall of residence room within a matter of days. Perhaps it’s a reaction to all that talk of a higher education sector laid low by trigger warnings and safe spaces.”

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