Boris Johnson recently announced his plans to allow university students to return to in-person teaching on the 17th of May…after teaching has finished for the vast majority.
Despite the few practical courses that were allowed to return to campus earlier this year, for many university students, this means that there have been almost three semesters worth of education completed from computers in small bedrooms, messy kitchens and crowded living areas. For over a year.
Nearly one billion pounds worth of rent has been wasted on vacant student properties
Most unbelievably, young adults, living off student loans and part time jobs, are still burdened with the full fees of university tuition. Students are paying upwards of nine thousand pounds a year despite not getting the same standard of teaching, or any of the other benefits of campus life.
This comes in addition to the thousands of pounds spent on unlived in or unnecessary student accommodation and housing. It is estimated that nearly one billion pounds worth of rent has been wasted on vacant student properties throughout the pandemic.
This pandemic has been emotionally harrowing for everyone, children and young people included. We have been forced to leave educational institutions, abandon socialising, motivate ourselves online and worry about the safety of loved ones and strangers.
Although university students may have a greater maturity to deal with the realities of a pandemic, we are ultimately still students
Young people have willingly put their lives on hold, despite the virus posing less threat to themselves, and despite being the habitual scapegoat of the government and public for refusing to follow the rules.
Although university students may have a greater maturity to deal with the realities of a pandemic, we are ultimately still students. The nation’s furore around what will happen with GCSE and A-Level exams has been rightly loud, and exams have been cancelled in response to what students have faced.
All the while, however, university students have been silently expected to continue producing large amounts of work and assessments to the same standard as before.
“We are seen as cash cows…”
After the government initially confirmed that universities were safe to return to in September, lots of people saw this as using students for the money: their courses and accommodation costs.
The National Union of Students’ vice-president for higher education, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, has said: “Students have been consistently exploited and ignored during this pandemic. We are seen as cash cows, with many stuck paying extortionate rents for properties they either cannot use or cannot afford.”
If it can now be deemed ‘safe’ for school-aged children to return to their classrooms how can university pose any more risk?
So many students have had to isolate, supporting themselves and others whilst being moved out of home for the first time in their lives. Whilst some adjustments have been made this has been at the discretion of lecturers and professors, not the politicians.
University students are living in communities of mostly 18-21-year-olds
If it can now be deemed ‘safe’ for school-aged children to return to their classrooms how can university pose any more risk? Seminar sizes are smaller, the buildings are larger, the students are older and as such can be expected to follow the rules of distancing, masks and sanitising properly.
Furthermore, for students living in their university cities their housing is largely self-contained. Whilst year 13s may be returning to parents in vulnerable categories, university students are living in communities of mostly 18-21-year-olds.
Much of the older generation reflect on their university days as the best of their lives. They remember their newfound freedom, their parties and experimentation, their crowded lecture theatres and chance to educate themselves about their favourite subjects on their beautiful campuses and bustling cities.
This is simply not the reality of university in a pandemic. And whilst no one has been left unscathed from this awful virus, not many feel quite as unheard, uncared for, isolated and upset as the students left to fend for themselves in box-rooms around the country.
Featured image courtesy of Georgia Honey. No changes were made to this image.
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