Students from the University of Edinburgh have staged a protest over their “mistreatment” by the institution amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters claim the university made a “false promise” of hybrid learning and said that many students would not have taken out leases on flats if they had known most learning would be online.
They also claim the university’s treatment of first years has been “terrible”, saying that the university has “locked them in halls of residences with zero regard for their mental health and wellbeing”.
Students gathered to protest in the city’s Bristo Square on Saturday, calling for better treatment and services and an “actual provision of hybrid learning”, saying if the university cannot provide this then a cut in fees for the online semester is needed.
They held placards with messages such as “9k for Zoom”, “students before profit” and “less contact same fees”.
The university said that students are receiving a hybrid learning experience, and that when they are asked to self-isolate they are provided with support.
In a Facebook post, organisers stated: “This is a protest against the University of Edinburgh’s mistreatment of students in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, mainly against the false promise of ‘hybrid learning’ made to both returning and new students.
“Students were misled and returned and started university only to find, the night before term started, that all or the vast majority of their lectures and contacts would be online.
“Many students have taken out leases on flats that they do not need and wouldn’t have got if the university was honest and clear about online learning from the beginning.
“The treatment of new students has been terrible. The university has locked them in halls of residences with zero regard for their mental health and wellbeing.
“Many other universities across the UK have dealt with the pandemic better, with much more serious and compassionate measures being set in place to provide quality education and safety for students.
“This protest is to display our anger against and disappointment in the University of Edinburgh.”
Protesters were asked to respect social distancing and wear masks if possible.
A University of Edinburgh spokeswoman said: “Academic and support staff have been working tirelessly to provide students with the world-class education that they expect from the University of Edinburgh.
“We have been working closely with the Students’ Union and other student groups to ensure that their views are heard at the highest level.
“Students are receiving a hybrid learning experience, in line with Scottish Government guidance, with some in-person teaching taking place on campus.
“We are delivering more than 95,000 hours of teaching this semester and more than 35,000 hours of these are scheduled to take place on campus. Our libraries and other study facilities are open, and we have created new spaces for students to meet and interact during this challenging year.
“We have also introduced new courses to help our students adjust to digital learning, as well as providing extra technical support.
“Where students are asked to self-isolate due to Scottish Government and NHS advice, we have staff working 24 hours a day to provide those in accommodation with three meals a day and have other essential items delivered. We are also providing a range of support, including daily check-ins, pastoral care and a helpline.
“We know that this is a year like no other, but we want to reassure our students that we are listening to them and acting on their feedback where we can.”
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