UK Governments Unfair Treatment of University Students During Covid-19
We are only 2 months away from the 1-year anniversary of the UK’s first ever National Lockdown. Three national lockdowns have been implemented since, but what has truly changed in our country from then and now?
To begin on a positive note, 3 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK, covid-19 cases have decreased by 71.5% from June 2020 to January 2021, and there have been clear and significant reductions in air pollution. However, it can easily be noted that the negatives brought from this pandemic outweighs the positives. To name a couple, the intense academic and financial strains to university students, lack of transparency, guidance and support from the UK Government, and the UK governments constant blame placed on university students for covid-19 transmission.
Firstly, it is staggering that the government has seen fit to treat students in this way. According to the University and College Union (UCU), the number of coronavirus cases in UK universities is a prominent reflection of the Westminster government refusing to act on expert advice. And yet, students are being blamed for simply abiding by the unrestricted and unspecified rules and regulations which were spoon-fed to them by the UK Government. The maximum 6-people and no household exchange rule was established, but so was the Eat-out-to-help scheme in August where we were encouraged to go outside and dine in restaurants simply to boost the economy. How did it make sense to come about with the scheme when the cases had finally decreased after a long constant increase of numbers? This was simply a selfish act by the government where no careful thought nor judgement were put into consideration regarding UK citizen’s health and safety.
Secondly, the UK governments unfair treatment is evident in the lack of academic and financial support available to university students. Standard university tuition fees to home students in the UK is £9250 yearly, while international tuition fees can range from £12,000 to 18,000 yearly, along with the separate accommodation fee. But after a whole semester of no face-to-face teaching, limited campus facilities and resources and no consideration for different time zones, this is simply not worth the large amount we pay for. Many students across the UK have signed the direct petitions against the parliament for reimbursing the tuition fees and to at least be partially refunded for the mistreatment handled by the UK Government. The UK Government’s response was, “HE providers must deliver high quality courses. If students are unhappy, they should first complain to their provider and if their concerns are unresolved, they can ask OIA to consider their complaint.” Many of the students felt like this was insensitive and a massive gaslighting of students.
Lastly, there has been no mental health support to university students stuck at their accommodation by the university and the UK Government. On the 8th of October 2020, Finn Kitson was found deceased by the security staff on his accommodation. It had been reported by his parents that Finn had suffered from mental health issues and due to the lack of support from his university, this heightened his anxiety ever more, resulting in his suicide. Finn Kitson is not the only one who unfortunately took their life due to the mental health problems, there have been many reports of struggle from university students, especially international students who moved here with no social group and support.
To sum up, the UK Government needs to act on the advice given by experts from educators and psychologists and finally start to listen and be transparent with university students. The mistreatment given to us needs to end before it is too late.
If you're in crisis and need to talk right now, there are many helplines staffed by trained people ready to listen. Samaritans is 116 123 and Mind (National Association for Mental Health) is 0300 123 3393.
By: Grishma Gurung, 2nd Year Law Student, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at The Brunel Lawyer