University students speak on the impact of COVID-19 isolation on their teaching and mental health
University students across the country have told of the impact that COVID-19 restrictions have had on campuses throughout the UK and have demanded that they are refunded part of their tuition fees.
Students in higher education from across the United Kingdom have moved into halls of residence, as well as student houses following months of being at home, but due to rising COVID-19 cases face-to-face teaching is currently being halted at many universities until the test and trace program improves and the spread of the coronavirus is curbed.
This comes after a minister has suggested that tighter social restrictions could potentially be imposed if COVID-19 infections in the UK continue to rise. Helen Whately blames restrictions on household mixing as a newspaper says a government source claims the action “will have to come”.
Hermione Marshall, 21, who is a third year English student studying at the University of Edinburgh said she would not have returned to her university if she had known beforehand that there was not going to be much teaching in person, which is a decision that students were informed of just a week before the start of term.
“I rely on being able to go home frequently to support my mental health, and as I will be unable to do this year, I am very worried I will have a lot of difficulties in managing this,”
“It feels like we are being punished for being students. It’s ridiculous how they’ve treated us. We’re being treated like robots: ‘You’ve got to live in these conditions’, ‘You can’t go out’, ‘Do what you’re told’, ‘We’re not going to tell you how your courses will be delivered’; ‘We will not ask you how you want it to be delivered’.”
She added: “I’m going to be in about £80,000 of debt after this. Where is the money going, what is it being spent on? It feels like they made us come up here so they can extract rent from us.”
At Newcastle University, 19-year-old second year student Izzie King is self-isolating after testing positive for coronavirus. “I had all the symptoms; high fever, cough, and I still can’t taste or smell anything. It started on Monday, I got tested on Wednesday, and it was gone by Thursday,” she said.
“Our nearest testing site was a 45-minute walk away, I had to walk there and back when it was cold and raining.”
She added: “My parents have been very worried and scared but me and my flatmates who have had it are not afraid of it, it was just like a bad cold for us. I’m glad I got it up here and not down with my parents.”
This comes after Liverpool, Leeds and Manchester face mass redundancies and “boarded-up high streets” amid a collapse of the hospitality sector unless coronavirus restrictions are reviewed, the cities’ leaders have warned the government.
The start of her term has effectively been delayed, by around three weeks until 19 October, an email from the university to students shows, and she is among some 200,000 people who have signed a petition calling for the government to force universities to partially refund fees.
“The need for online teaching is clear, it is safer for all, yet I remain unconvinced that the same quality of teaching will be provided,” she added.
“Speaking as someone currently in isolation, it takes a significant toll on your mental health. Not being able to go outside, or see anyone else, it can be devastatingly lonely.”