UK/ 14 August 2020/ Source/ https://www.unionjack.co.uk/
Students starting university this autumn could face feelings of “anxiety, isolation and loneliness” because of COVID-19, the National Union of Students has warned.
Many universities are having to adapt courses to online learning rather than face-to-face lectures, while some students are being advised to only socialise with those living in their halls of residence.
Freshers’ week events have been cancelled or moved online, and nightclubs remain closed.
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS vice president for higher education, said: “Students are going to be returning with new renewed feelings of anxiety, isolation, loneliness, more specifically when it comes to COVID-19, grief.”
“It’s going to be important that when we are thinking about a second wave and the risks that are coming for students, we are thinking about what is the flexibility to be able go home and be with loved ones safely,” she added.
Sky News spoke to students due to begin studying at university in September.
Catherine Maunder, who is starting a law degree at the University of Bristol, said: “All my lectures are going to be online until Christmas and Bristol has made a social bubble situation so I can only go to events and be social with people in my flat for the first year.
“So that’s going to make it really difficult to make friends and obviously a lot of pressure to get on with the people in your flat.”
Fatu Jobe, who will study nursing in Birmingham, said: “I think the main thing is how unpredictable everything is – I don’t know what’s going to be happening with my lectures, seminars… making friends, no freshers as well.”
A study by the Sutton Trust found that 73% of university applicants are worried about the negative impact of COVID-19 on university social life, with two thirds (67%) concerned about the loss of face-to-face teaching.
One third of students surveyed also said the pandemic had made them less likely to start university this year.
UCAS says the number of UK students planning to defer their course is roughly the same as last year (around 4%).
But there is concern about a fall in international students, who provide substantial revenue for higher education institutions.
Daniel Zheng, who works for HOPE International Education China, which recruits Chinese students for UK universities, said there are reports that up to 70% of Chinese students may change their plans.
“If the pandemic is quite serious, I can imagine quite a lot of courses will be online – if they are online that will not meet all the students’ interests to study overseas.”
Jessica Bao, from China, was due to start studying marketing at Queen Mary University in London this September, but has decided to defer to next January.
“Firstly, I don’t want to catch it [COVID-19] and sometimes it might be possible to interact with people who carry it.
“Personally, to take courses online, just listen and watch the video and Powerpoint, you can’t see their faces, it won’t be easy to understand what they say or what they want to converse with you.”
The NUS also says there are wellbeing issues for BAME students.
Ms Gyebi-Ababio said: “I think there’s a real need to look at culturally competent care, especially for students from BAME backgrounds that we have seen have experienced a disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on their communities, and I think what’s really important now is that universities are offering additional and comprehensive support.”
Universities UK, which represents more than 130 UK universities, has launched a campaign, called #2020MADEUS, urging students not to let COVID-19 stop them from going to university.