Thousands of cases of Coronavirus are being reported by students across the UK, leaving many uncertain about whether returning to university was the right thing to do in the current climate.
Students are distraught, as many claim they were told that they would receive a blend of online teaching along and face-to-face learning. However, everything seems to be moving online, causing students to question whether they should have rented accommodation and moved out in the first place.
Lecturers Threaten Strikes
At Northumbria University, 770 students have tested positive for the virus, which is being considered the largest outbreak at the time of writing. The University and College Union, representing the lecturers, has released the following statement:
‘We told Northumbria University they had a civic duty to put the health of staff, students and the local community first and we take no pleasure in now seeing another preventable crisis play out.
We warned last month that, given the current restrictions in the region, the direction of the infection rate and the problems with test and trace, it was clearly far too soon for a mass return to campus.’
Thousands Forced to Self-Isolate
127 students tested positive for COVID-19 at Manchester Metropolitan University, leading to a forced lockdown of 1,700 students living in accommodation at Birely and Cambridge Halls. Many students have complained that the situation has been handled unfairly. Megan Tingey, a first-year at the University, said: ‘We saw there was security on the gates telling people they couldn’t go in or out. I still haven’t received an email saying anything about being locked in. I think most of my flatmates have received an email, but it didn’t come before so we could prepare.’
Students have become increasingly concerned that local grocery stores will be unable to support all online deliveries and have been left worried about necessities like food. However, the Manchester City Council has commented that it would ensure that these students get ‘the support they need.’
A New Trend?
Northumbria and Manchester Metropolitan aren’t the only universities facing large numbers of COVID positive cases. Recent reports demonstrate that the University of Sheffield has confirmed nearly 479 new cases since the 28th of September. A spokesperson for the University has said: ‘To make sure we are supporting students in the best way possible, we will contact all students who are self-isolating to check on their welfare and offer practical and emotional support.’
With other universities including Aberdeen, Nottingham, Glasgow, Sheffield, and many more having over one hundred cases, it seems that it has become a rising trend in universities across the UK.
Lecturers have also spoken out in support of students being disadvantaged due to the current restrictions being placed on them. Professor Christina Pagel, a Professor at UCL, said: ‘I think we have to acknowledge that students need to be supported at university and it shouldn’t kind of be a blame game. If you stuck me in the house with seven strangers, I’m much more likely to get COVID than I am where I am now, and I think that has to be acknowledged.’
Although this news may seem concerning, it is important to note that not all cases are ‘on campus’ and some have been from home-based learning students as well. Furthermore, with the number of overall cases in the UK at an all-time high, it is no wonder that cases amongst students have also increased.
A Government representative has also spoken out about the distress that students are facing: ‘We recognise this has been a really challenging time for students, particularly for those having to self-isolate at the start of their university journey. We have asked universities to make sure those that are isolating have all the support they need.
Universities are well-prepared for a local outbreak, and we have worked with them to help draw up plans for measures in the event of positive cases on campus, or a rise in cases locally.’
Photo Credit: Maariyah Fulat