Why were university students ignored during the pandemic?

With the Plan B restrictions such as mask-wearing and Covid passports being scrapped in England tomorrow, life may start to look a bit more normal.

It’s hard to remember that this time last year the UK was under strict lockdown with non-essential retail, hospitality and schools closed.

Watching the regular announcements that Boris made, teenagers and young adults across the UK listened for any updates about the future of their education.

man walking next to sign saying this way out of the pandemic
The end of restrictions is finally in sight in Engalnd. Credit: Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP/Shutterstock.

However, there was one recurring issue, why were students never mentioned?

During the press conferences, guidance was given for primary and secondary school pupils, including the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams but seldom was there a mention of university students.

Paying rent for a house you could not legally live in

houses with to let signs outside
Many students were forced to pay rent for a house they couldn’t live in due to lockdown. Credit: Ethan Wilkinson/Unsplash.

Guidance was unclear about whether students should remain on campus or go back home during the third national lockdown, and there was confusion about whether students would have to pay for their accommodation whilst they weren’t at university.

Many students like myself, had signed themselves into housing contracts before 2020-2021 started, assuming the worst of the pandemic was over and university life was about to go back to normal.

With the average student rent being £146 a week and Kingston being the sixteenth most expensive place to study, I had no option but to pay for a house I couldn’t live in due to the majority of the term being taught virtually.

The National Union of Students said it was “completely unacceptable there was no support offered to students and landlords”.

Tuition fees have not been reduced

However, this wasn’t the only monetary loss that student’s suffered during the pandemic.

Many students called for a reduction in tuition fees, which currently stand at an eye-watering £9,250, due to online delivery not having the same quality as in-person learning and a lack of resources that you would get from being at university physically.

To gain attention to this issue that was ignored by the government, many students signed petitions or wrote letters to their MPs.

I wrote a three-page email to my MP outlining my concerns and issues about how the government was ignoring students whilst making decisions about Covid rules, quoting government websites and UCAS.

In return, I got an obviously copied and pasted five lines of repeated government advice, ignoring all the questions I had asked.

Demonisation of students in the press

boy sitting over laptop hand in hair
Survey’s found that students’ mental health plummeted during lockdown. Credit: Tim Gouw, Unsplash.

Despite Student Union leaders rejecting claims that students were to blame for the spike in Covid cases in autumn 2020, news outlets constantly reported that students moving back to campus were responsible for the case boom.

In reality, 52 per cent of students said their mental health had deteriorated or been affected negatively by Covid-19, which wasn’t helped by the press shifting the Covid case guilt onto students.

In addition, some students who chose to throw lockdown parties were fined up to £10,000 or even expelled from university.

However, since the allegations of Boris Johnson’s plethora of lockdown parties, some are calling for their money to be reimbursed due to the unfairness of the rules.

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She/Her
Third-year journalism student at Kingston University
I like to write about sustainability, social issues, feminism and pop culture.

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