|Photo by Windows on Unsplash|
Online Learning and Fees:
At my university, a university-wide ‘no detriment’ policy has been applied. My course has decided that you only need to do one assignment but it doesn’t count towards your degree. Whilst this is good in some ways it removes the incentive to work hard on the assignment as ultimately it shouldn’t count (they’ve said if you’re close to a boundary in third year to move up a classification then they’ll take into account this assignment too). However, my final grade for second year cannot be improved upon and my average cannot be increased, the no detriment policy only means that it won’t go down but it also won’t go up. Therefore, my motivation to produce an assignment of a high standard is dwindling rapidly due to this policy (update: I actually got a first on this assignment so at least I have that to maybe fall back on if third year doesn’t quite go to plan). Other departments have scrapped assignments entirely meaning that the year is practically done. Some have decided to make exams open book which, to me, seems to defeat the point of exams to test your ability and removes the incentive to revise at all.
Online learning has also taken a huge shift in the way university courses are run. Lectures are uploaded online with the occasional online class and forum to contribute to. This is not worth £9250! If I wanted online learning then I would’ve applied to the Open University. And universities are still asking for the full fee despite receiving a limited amount of teaching and assignments that don’t even count! Not to mention the numerous weeks of strikes that have been held this year. In total, I’ve missed 53 hours worth of teaching and content due to strikes, equating to nearly £2000 worth of tuition fees. Yet, despite filing complaints students have simply been told that their university has dealt with the consequences of the strikes and will not be reducing or compensating students. Couple that with the disruption and online learning transition of Coronavirus and the last time I had fully-fledged lectures was the middle of February – nearly 3 months ago!
Rent + Accommodation:
The next biggest gripe for students is having to still pay for rent and bills for a house/flat/halls that are no longer occupied. I currently live in a student house where we also pay for the bills ourselves so the landlords have no outgoing costings for the house, so to speak. Thankfully, after a few emails, it was agreed that we would have reduced rent for 3 months before going back up to normal rent. It was an appreciated compromise but it did take quite a few attempts and back and forth before the matter was settled. There seems to be considerably more support for landlords than there are students and paying for rent and bills for a house that is empty with no job is difficult for many. The argument that students still receive their maintenance loans and therefore still have the support to help pay for rent is true but for me, and many others, the loan barely covers a few months rent meaning it’s down to external sources to make up the rest of the rent that will be due for the coming months. My university has let those living in halls out of their contracts early so no rent payments are required yet these students also still receive their maintenance loans, therefore it doesn’t seem fair to expect some students to continue paying whilst others do not?
It seems the question of rent is entirely up to each individual landlords or companies discretion which I understand, to an extent. For some, these houses are their sole source of income and therefore a significant loss of rent would be catastrophic. However, on the other hand, there are landlords with multiple properties who, presumably, live quite comfortably and the generosity of reducing rent by even the smallest amount would go a long way. The assumption that parents will support their child cannot be universally applied to all students and even if they do receive support many families incomes have been reduced substantially or even reduced to no income at all due to job losses as a result of the virus. Some students support themselves entirely independently and may not be able to work at the moment yet there seems to be little to no support for them.
Being a student amidst this pandemic is unsettling, bizarre and disruptive. There is a lack of clear policies from universities and the government regarding academic studies, tuition fees and rent. Whilst these are unprecedented and uncertain times, it is clear that students have been forgotten amidst this pandemic. They have been left to deal with these issues entirely by themselves with a lack of support and understanding from those in positions of power and authority.