Coronavirus on Campus: University of Leeds outbreak

Over 500 staff and students at the University of Leeds have tested positive for Covid-19 since the academic year started on Monday 28th September.

With more than 38,000 students and 9,200 staff, the University is facing a major crisis, barely two weeks in.

Public Health England published data which revealed that most of the cases are in student areas; Hyde Park, Headingley and Woodhouse. This has occured after students were encouraged to return to University, being promised a multitude of support to make up for the lack of a real Fresher’s experience.

Leeds City Council executive member for learning, Jonathan Pryor, said that “the Government’s test and tracing systems were simply not good enough to cope with the return of students to University”.

The University of Leeds has been asked to give regular updates on how many Covid-positive students there are, although these numbers are unlikely to be accurate.

Students in Leeds, and across the country, have complained that this is not what they paid for or what they were promised.

Tilly Scott, a University of Leeds drama student, has found that her online sessions for her practical subject are “very impersonal” which has hindered her learning experience as “drama is very personal”.

A language student also complained that the video calls has made speaking languages more difficult as “gestures, facial expressions and movements are a big part of learning languages” and these are impossible to get across through a screen.

Aside from the new online learning platforms which students have had to adjust to, many Leeds students are now having to isolate, after having contracted the virus or having been contacted by Test and Trace.

A first-year Leeds student said that the situation has made her “freshers experience much more limited, as well as limiting the people you are able to hang out with”. Another first-year student felt that while trying to make the most of the situation, the experience has definitely been restricted by the increasing difficultly in making friends outside of the flat the university allocated freshers.

Professor Simone Buitendijk, the new Vice Chancellor at the university, said that students and staff should come together and “all play a part in keeping each other safe”. The Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) and National Students Union (NUS) equally made clear that they are “not prepared to take chances with the health and safety of students, staff or local communities and neither should Government or vice chancellors.”

All images by Maariyah Fulat.