With the recent lockdown measures announced, university students are once again being plunged into an air of uncertainty. What the University of York have been doing for us has been pretty decent. Although, nothing is perfect.
Many students have decided to stay home, yet quite a few have decided to come back. UoY have ensured that there will be free rapid COVID-19 tests for those returning, spanning from the 3rd January to the 5th February. Although I am not travelling back to York until probably the middle of February, I have had one of these tests before I left for the Christmas holidays, offered by the University.
From my experience, I say that the University has been quite productive with these tests. From booking them to having them done, the process was quick and easy. I had my result back in under an hour too. I have heard how other universities have done it from my friends outside of York – York seems to be doing pretty well in comparison.
Apart from rapid testing, concerns have started to arise with lockdown number three – many students are worried about the impact COVID-19 restrictions will have on their grades, especially with deadlines on the horizon. Thankfully, we have recently received an email detailing how our SABBs have been in talks about academic safety nets – a huge relief for students with deadlines and exams. According to our SABBs, York is one of the “first Russell Group institutions to bring in “Safety Net” measures this academic year”.
But how much this safety net will help students. Of course, students want some certainty, but the reassurance the safety net provides is questionable. With the SABBs still battling it out against the Russell Group to acquire a stronger set of measures to stop student’s grades from being impacted by the pandemic, I am glad to see YUSU trying to help their students. However, more needs to be done to protect York’s students.
Of course, the issue mainly stands with the Russell Group stating that their universities don’t need a more stable safety net… we do. This pandemic has affected our learning, the quality of teaching and therefore our grades. This issue is at the fault of the Russel Group but it is fantastic to see the effort the SABB’s looking out for UoY students.
When I watched Boris Johnson’s briefing concerning lockdown number three, I was quick to notice that he did not mention university students – of course; university students are only mentioned when we are blamed for supposedly causing more cases.
At least universities are taking action to inform and manage students. There a serious talks on-campus rent refunds, albeit with the emphasis on convincing landlords to be more flexible. The will of landlord’s is another issue, but the fact that SABB’s are defending students, particularly those in on-campus accommodation, is great to see.
Students have been notified that the entirety of the spring term is online. This may be disappointing news to many but it’s the safest option for now, and a clear instruction. COVID-19 cases in York are currently high, and with schools closing, it only makes sense not to risk it. Opinions on how this online learning had been last term differs from student to student. Personally, I felt okay (most of the time) with it , but I know this feeling is not universal. I have seen how many of my peers have struggled with motivation, for example, and the quality of online learning seems to have differed from subject to subject – some decent and some awful. All departments should give all students a good quality of online teaching- it should be standard practice by now.
All students should be offered more support from the university and their departments as the bare minimum, as online learning, especially when it’s not up to standard, can affect students’ mental health: limited social interaction, lack of motivation, and being cooped up in their rooms.
Deadlines and exams are certainly not helping either. York has kept the Open Door open throughout the pandemic and the funding from the university towards this service and the Disability Services has increased, which does show to students that the University is trying their best to improve mental health services.
Much like the current climate, things for university students are always changing. What the University of York is doing now is great, and I hope the trend will continue throughout the academic year. Although, nothing is perfect and there have been a few obstacles stopping a complete success story. Some students have been left at a great disadvantage because of their departments, and with the spring term having started, I, and the student body, expect to see some great changes and improvements since last term.