Starting university should be a brilliant time for young people. Instead, young people across the UK are being locked down, isolated, and betrayed. Promised and paying for a normal university education and experience, many are receiving something that looks very different: limited or no face-to-face teaching, limited extra-curricular and social experiences, solitary isolation in sterile accommodation.
We call upon the Higher Education sector to to immediately institute a Minimum University Provision. This should at a minimum include:
Young people across the UK are being locked down, isolated, and betrayed.
Promised and paying for a normal university education and experience, many are receiving something that looks very different: limited or no face-to-face teaching, limited extra-curricular and social experiences, solitary isolation in sterile accommodation.
Many are living away from parents for the first time and are either entirely alone, or holed up with people they’ve only just met. Patrolled by security guards and police dogs many are suffering from limited access to food, washing facilities, and most of all, human contact.
This is an inhumane and disproportionate infringement of their human rights. Many are already struggling with their mental health.
For this privilege, they are paying around £15,000 for tuition and accommodation.
Some in the media have blamed students for spreading Covid-19, but students are in fact being subjected to harsher restrictions than almost everybody else. We appreciate that universities are operating under severe constraints, and that many are doing their very best to give students the highest quality teaching and a university experience that is as ‘normal’ as possible. However, the unfortunate reality is severe issues remain for large numbers of students.
Many campuses have become ghost towns, with food and drink outlets shut down. Some university dining halls do not allow even six people to sit together, providing instead single tables in exam-hall format, or pushing sandwiches through bedroom doors. Food deliveries are restricted. Sport and exercise is often non-existent. Meanwhile the population at large continues to eat in restaurants, frequent bars and pubs and work-out in the gym.
These are our children. We are betraying them when they need us most. And we betray ourselves too, since this generation are the best hope we have of clawing ourselves back up from the depths of the economic abyss we’re about to find ourselves in.
Extensive empirical evidence makes it clear that young people are not at serious risk from Covid 19. Nor are they to blame for it. They have lost the most and gained the least from the measures enforced to tackle it and if we do not act soon their life chances may be damaged beyond repair. They deserve a proper university education and quality of life.
If this minimum provision cannot be met, then students must be allowed to leave and universities must provide full online learning for no more than two thirds of the tuition fee (as per correspondence learning at The Open University). All accommodation costs should be refunded to those who wish to return home.