Current third year students are perhaps the most disrupted cohort ever. Losing over a year of in-person teaching to a pandemic exacerbated before and after by UCU strikes. So, do they regret making the (very costly) decision to go? Third year Nottingham University student Shivani Hindocha reflects on her university experience.
Last month marks the two-year anniversary of most university students packing up their rooms at uni with very little notice and rushing home. Also known as the two-year anniversary of Covid.
I am now in my third year and still very vividly remember when Covid was merely a whisper, and the possibility of the UK going into lockdown was a rumour that was laughed at. Yet here we are: three lockdowns later with all the life-altering rules and regulations imposed during Covid almost all gone and life seemingly back to normal.
But life will never be the same, we are not the same people we were before we had experienced a global pandemic and to expect that is ridiculous. Not only did the pandemic have physical, mental, and psychological impacts on us all but the university life that was promised to us was stripped away.
How I wish I could go back to my first-year self and tell her that the first 2 years would be anything but amazing
Ever since I can remember I had been told that: “Uni is the best time of your life”, “It is the place you will make your best and lifelong friends” so “make the most of it”. Cousins and family friends would say that they “would give anything to be back at uni again”. Everything I saw on Instagram told me the same, and so I came to Nottingham in September 2019 with the expectations and assurances that these would be the best years of my life.
But this idea I had in my head was the exact opposite of what came to be my reality. How I wish I could go back to my first-year self and tell her that the first 2 years would be anything but amazing.
We endured six weeks of strikes followed by 18 months of online learning
Although March 2020 is when COVID began affecting our lives, our education has been disrupted since the very beginning. Even before, we spent 18 months with barely any in-person teaching- we had an unstable learning experience. Only 13 of the possible 19 weeks of teaching in the 2019-2020 academic year, prior to the first lockdown, were normal.
While I most definitely sympathise with our professors striking to improve their situation, I cannot help but reflect on the effect of the UCU strikes on us students. We endured six weeks of strikes followed by 18 months of online learning. Our lecturers tried their best, but the situation was far from ideal, both academically and for all our mental health. These strikes have frustratingly, although understandably, continued to plague my cohort’s third year for numerous weeks now.
Therefore, to say my university experience has been inconsistent and turbulent would be an accurate summary. Yes, the experience has made me resilient, but it has been challenging and difficult. So, the question I am asked regularly is: ‘Do you regret coming to university?’
Before the beginning of my third year, my response to this would have undoubtedly been yes.
But since starting my third year in September 2021, I can wholeheartedly say that my university experience has been that of a dream. That is only if you ignore the overwhelming academic stress, the UCU strikes, and the difficulty in finding a job after graduation. The year has of course not been without its ups and downs but, in comparison to the two previous years, it has been wonderful.
So, do I regret coming to university? The answer is No. This year I have been able to make friends, socialise, join sports teams, attend in-person lectures and seminars, and live the university life I was told to expect.
[It] is worth far less than the £9,250 per year we are expected to pay
I completely understand that this will not have been the case for everyone and while I am pleased I came to university, reflecting on this experience has led me to believe that we students deserve a refund. 13 weeks of normal teaching followed by 18 months of online learning is worth far less than the £9,250 per year we are expected to pay. But, alas, if Universities continue to refuse to provide fair pensions for their staff, I do not see us students being given a refund anytime soon.
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