Updated: Mar 21
Boris Johnson seems to have forgotten someone! The Prime Minister can not even bear to say the dreaded word...university. As GCSE and A-levels have been cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis and a new lockdown is preventing all from returning to face-to-face teaching university students have been left in the dark. Why?
I think that here and now we are seeing the flawed electoral cyclings and failings of democracy in action. Students have been shown firstly to be less likely to turn out to vote and secondly less likely to vote Tory. These statistics mean that the Prime Minister knows that he will not be punished too greatly for ignoring over 2 million students and their calls for a reaction to recent lockdown measures. Johnson (or any predecessor) wasn’t counting on their votes in the next election in the first place! So, while exam formats and situations for secondary school students have rightly been changed, this is the only explanation that might say why not higher education too. Maybe he must leave it up to universities to decide how they change assessment, but all students need to hear is that the universities have been advised by the government or some policy that shows support and accepts that they too are struggling.
What does university life look like? There has been debate as to whether students are missing out from much as they are still receiving online teaching, however, it is indisputable that they are. Science subjects that need labs clearly are only able to deliver below-par education however, zoom seminars are what no degree course’s students signed up for. I can only imagine that if the Prime Minister thinks that online seminars are not too different from in-person and the uploaded lectures suffice as a replacement for the environment of the lecture hall, he is delusional. Debates are stifled, experiments are left unconducted and connections are poor. On top of that routines have been destroyed, lectures are released during the week for many students for them to do within a couple of days before their next seminar, there is no time spent in between tutorials in the library. There is no normality. This isn’t what they are paying £9,250 per year for so money needs to be refunded and assessment needs to be adjusted. Students can not be expected to pay this much or perform to normal standards in the current climate.
Not only are students incurring the loss of their money on tuition, houses for students in non-university accommodation need to be paid in full to their landlords with no special arrangements made. Students are not allowed to move back to their accommodations they’re renting under government guidelines but there have been no ideas or support offered to them from the government. Thankfully universities across the country are acting to give first-year students and others in the university halls their money back but more needs to be done to support the remaining students renting independently at this time. I’m sure many would be happy to pay all the rent if they were getting their rightful refund on their £9,250, but I’m sad to say I can’t hold out much hope for that. There was no reimbursement for the summer term last year, yes that was predominantly an exam term but this major block of teaching can not be changed so dramatically with no financial change. Students have shown that this abandonment has had severe impacts not only on their pockets and their education but most importantly, their health. Student suicides have been painfully common in recent months, why can’t the government see this dire situation and why won’t they act on it? It is unacceptable. They have been abandoned.
I think the Prime Minister needs to admit that this group of his country is deserving of support, or at this rate, just a mention! When he was questioned on students' situations in one of his daily conferences he stumbled over his words and thanked them for their sacrifice. They’re not martyrs. They don’t want to make this ‘sacrifice’. They want support. They want answers. They want what they’re not getting.