University students describe ‘horrible’ year as pandemic ‘guinea pigs’

University students have said being in the class of 2020 has been “horrible” and they are paying to be “guinea pigs” amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A sharp rise in Covid-19 cases has meant thousands of students are now self-isolating, while a shift to online working has caused many to question their tuition and accommodation fees.

Tuition fees in the UK can be up to £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree – which is among the highest in the developed world, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Sian Godward, 18, has just started her first year studying interior architecture and design at Leeds Beckett University.

She moved into a flatshare in the city last month, but has now moved back home to nearby Wakefield after three out of five of her housemates did not show up due to Covid-19 – as Leeds is in local lockdown.

Despite not living at the property she currently cannot escape the contract, meaning she will add over £6,000 for the year to her student loan.

Despite her hands-on course, Ms Godward will only be receiving face-to-face teaching for three hours per week, which she said she was not told before signing the contract.

“If I had known that I would not have moved out at all… it was having a massive impact on my mental health,” Ms Godward told the PA news agency.

The situation comes after a turbulent summer of A-level results, in which Ms Godward got the algorithm-predicted grades she needed but much of her work from the past year was discounted.

Asked what it is like being in the class of 2020, Ms Godward said: “Horrible, just not what I expected at all. They should definitely have given us a lot more support.

“I feel like we’re just guinea pigs who have been thrown into this situation that hasn’t happened before.

“Nobody really knows what’s going on – it’s just a mess about really.

“I feel particularly bad for those locked in their accommodation at the moment.”

Ewan Hillier is self-isolating at halls in Northumbria University, where he studies film and television production and it was announced on Friday more than 750 students have tested positive for Covid-19.

Coronavirus – Fri Oct 2, 2020
Coronavirus – Fri Oct 2, 2020

“I am annoyed that the uni told us to come back,” the 21-year-old from Hexham told PA.

“If the uni let students know that we were only in campus one day a week and we could do it all from home most students wouldn’t have come into accommodation and this increase in cases would not have taken place.

“I know fellow students who have now gone home as they are high risk and are still forced to pay rent when they live at home.

“I feel let down, we are the future of this country and are paying an incredible amount of money to be forgotten about and blamed for when things happen.”

Lydia Garton is in her third year of primary education studies at Bath Spa University and said her most recent classes have been “unnerving”.

“On the first day of class they sat us in separate chairs with over one metre of distance between everybody else,” the 22-year-old explained.

“I asked the teacher if we could take off our mask when we were all sat and the teacher said ‘honestly I don’t know, I’m still waiting for confirmation’.

“We’re all here asking questions and they don’t have the answers for us.”