Forgotten and Left Behind

President Kate Roberts responds to the Government's latest update on the return to campus for university students.

The Houses of Parliament in central London. Photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash

The treatment of students by the government this year has been quite frankly awful; left out of announcements and updates, no mention of tuition fee refunds, a lack of mental health support and funding, and so much more.

The announcement last week around the next step on the roadmap was meant to provide an update for University students, yet the government did not even mention University students once. The update was finally provided this week after insistent questioning from the Higher Education sector, however it has left us all disappointed.

Return delayed until 17 May

So you can go to the pub with your friends, take a holiday with your household, get a tattoo, go to the zoo, and there will even be 4000 fans at the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday 18 April, but you can’t sit socially distanced in your lecture or seminar. This seems entirely unfair, and once again it feels like students have been forgotten in the planning, and left behind.

If you were invited back on 8 March due to the course you study, you will be able to receive face to face teaching once term resumes again on 26 April. All other students will not be offered face to face teaching until at least 17 May, when the majority of the academic year is over and assessments have been sat. The government has not considered the timing of the academic year, focusing instead on other aspects of the economy, rather than prioritising students’ education.

There is currently a petition calling for University students to be able to return at the start of Term 3, which you can sign over on the Parliament's petition website.

We’re Here for You

We launched the We’re Here for You campaign back in February to provide updates and support on the five key issues facing students this year. We've detailed our work on tuition fees, accommodation and rent, no detriment policies, wellbeing and academic quality and we'll continue to update this throughout Term 3.

It is evident that this delay of return for students will incur fresh calls for the government to take action around tuition fee refunds, as students have been unable to fully experience University for the majority of the academic year. The government should foot the bill if refunds are going to be provided, and it seems very clear that on the question of whether students are receiving the experience they signed up for, the answer is no. In one of my previous blogs, I provided an understanding of the complexities of the tuition fee debate, and will continue to be engaged with national discussions on this issue.

We are also engaged with the Students United Against Fees campaign, and will be getting involved with their day of digital action on Thursday 29 April. Keep an eye on our social media for more information.

Your Next Steps

If you feel it would be the best situation for you to return to your campus accommodation or private housing, you are able to do this. The facilities on campus will also be open and available for all students to use, no matter whether face to face teaching has been yet offered to you. It is important that you make a decision that works best for you around Term 3, whether that is returning to the local area around campus or remaining at another/your home address.

The University will be providing an update next week on accommodation, as well as what Term 3 will look like in terms of facilities and activity that will be going on.

The Students’ Union facilities remain open for you to use, including the Union Shop, The Packhorse, and Tommy’s Kitchen. The Helpdesk and Medicine will be open from the start of term on 26 April.

Final Thoughts

We know that this is another devastating blow in an extremely difficult academic year. We would encourage you to do what works best for you for the remainder of this academic year, and reach out for support if you need it. The Students’ Union is here for you both virtually, and on campus, over the next term.

News article photo by Eva Dang on Unsplash