“I’d Have Done My Course From Home” – Lockdown Uni Students Speak Out

Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images.
Messages pasted inside the windows of the Cambridge Halls student accommodation at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Thousands of students across the country have been forced into isolation within weeks of arriving at university after mass coronavirus outbreaks were confirmed at campuses. Students in Scotland have been banned from visiting pubs, bars and restaurants and have been told there must be no parties, socialising or mixing with other households.
Around 1,700 students at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in northern England were ordered to self-isolate or risk facing "disciplinary action" after 127 COVID-19 cases were confirmed on campus, according to the university and local authorities.
Some students have criticised the lockdown, calling the move "inhumane" and a "breach of their human rights", especially as they felt pressured by the government into starting university this autumn, losing their summer jobs in the process. Others have expressed their frustrations at paying £15,000 a year to be locked in their rooms, unable to socialise or exercise, paying full tuition to watch online videos.
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On Wednesday, Downing Street announced that it "expects" students to be allowed to go home for Christmas, days after warning that they might not. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said universities in England could finish face-to-face teaching early this term so any students having to isolate can go home. The latest estimates suggest that 52 UK universities have had COVID-19 cases so far this term — up by 12 since Monday.
But the National Union of Students said it was "unacceptable" that some students had found themselves facing "private security guards with dogs" at their locked-down accommodation.
Emma, 18, who is living in halls at the University of Glasgow, says she's currently self-isolating after someone in her flat tested positive for the virus, and is worried she too will become ill. "I can't help but feel panicky about whether I will contract COVID-19," she tells Refinery29, "or when I'll be able to wash sheets, empty bins or if I'll have enough food."
The first-year student said the university started sending emails during Freshers' Week reminding students of social distancing rules following the discovery of 100-person parties happening on campus. "Then the outbreak happened and the mood just seemed to plummet," she adds. "None of us are going to lectures or allowed in each other's flats, we either spend the day in our rooms alone or in the kitchen with flatmates. I like them but it just feels intense going from being strangers to a 'household'."

I can't help but feel panicky about whether I'll contract COVID-19, or when I'll be able to wash sheets, empty bins or if I'll have enough food.

Emma, 18, glasgow university
She continues: "It's annoying that students are being blamed and cast as selfish. All we wanted to do was have the amazing university experience people rave about, and I wish people would sympathise with that more."
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For Amy*, 17, also living in halls at Glasgow University, the experience has taken a toll on her mental health. "Having no support circle in Glasgow is really a struggle and I have thought about going home," she tells Refinery29. "When we first went into isolation, the university didn't provide much support and I felt abandoned. However, they have sent us food packages and we have access to hot food some days."
Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images.
Messages pasted inside the windows of the Cambridge Halls student accommodation at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Amy, who is from Shetland and studying a healthcare degree, adds that moving to university is not something she would have done had the university been honest about the circumstances. "I feel that the only reason I am in Glasgow is to line the pockets of the university as if they had from the start told us there would be no in-person events for my course, I simply would have completed my course from home."

I feel that the only reason I am in Glasgow is to line the pockets of the university as if they had from the start told us there would be no in-person events for my course, I simply would have completed my course from home.

Amy*, 17, glasgow university
Instead, she's having to pay rent for university accommodation to study for her degree which she has to complete online. "We're unable to visit the library, which makes it harder to focus when studying. We're all in the same boat, we have to work from home."
Sophie, 19, who is studying history at Manchester Metropolitan University, shares the same sentiment. "I got two weeks into my course and they've changed it to online. I just feel it's unfair to be paying £9,000 for university when the fees don't correlate with the standard of teaching," she tells Refinery29.

I feel like I've been let down by the government and pushed aside, especially as we've been ridiculed and blamed for the spike in cases. Something needs to be done to support us.

Sophie, 19, manchester metropolitan university

Sophie is living with her brother in private accommodation in Manchester, and says she's frustrated that she still has to pay unnecessary rent. "I just feel like we got pushed into going to uni at the original start date even though they [the government] knew that with students moving all over the country there would be a second lockdown," she says. "Considering they had months to try and prepare for students going back, I don't feel like anything has been put in place apart from online lessons.

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"It's really disappointing and disheartening as I was excited to start this new chapter in my life and now I feel like I'm going to have massive amounts of debt for not an adequate amount of teaching."
She continues: "I feel really angered by the situation. I'm getting three hours of online lessons a week for £9,000. I feel like I've been let down by the government and pushed aside, especially as we've been ridiculed and blamed for the spike in cases. Something needs to be done to support us ASAP."
*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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