Students fear Covid will strip back university experience

Undergraduates of 2020 face a year like no other as they embark on campus life in the middle of a pandemic.

Starting university is a milestone moment in a young person’s life – having fun, forging friendships and shaping futures.

The undergraduates of 2020, however, face a year like no other, as they embark on campus life in the middle of a pandemic.

Instead of packed lecture halls like this, teaching will be delivered remotely or in vastly reduced, socially distanced classes.

There are also huge social changes, with many Freshers Week events taking place virtually.

Chloe is starting a law and management degree at Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University.

She said: “I feel like I’m missing out on quite a vital part of the uni experience.

“I’m a bit worried in just case I’m not getting the same level of support that previous students would have had in that first semester, and I’m worried in case that does have an effect on performance or any assessments that come up.” 

Social distancing through reduced class sizes and one way systems are among the safety measures being put in place.

Many institutions are also asking students to wear masks inside buildings – with calls by unions for them to be mandatory.

University bosses say they’re determined to deliver the best learning possible, despite the difficult circumstances.

Professor Chris O’ Neill, principal of Inverness College: University of Highlands and Islands, said: “We’re doing everything that we can through these virtual environments to ensure at least we’re giving a good solid experience. It’s not the experience I’d want my students to have, but we’re getting there,”

Social distancing will also take place in student halls and flats.

Safety plans include household bubbles, and oversea students from certain countries are being asked to quarantine for two weeks.

As well as the pratical consequences of coronavirus, universities are grappling with a projected financial hit.

It’s feared a drop in foreign students could lead to the sector facing a loss of up to £500m.

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said: “I think a lot of universities are going to face significant financial challenges, especially if the international students don’t arrive in the numbers we would hope for them to do.

“I would be confident that our institutions will weather this through, and continue to provide a really good quality of education to students but I think it is going to take a really close collaboration between universities and government to support us through this crisis, to be part of the recovery.”

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