Lifestyle Managing Self Isolation in the shadow of Student Fees
Across the world colleges, schools and universities have closed, and moved to online teaching. Most universities have kept resident buildings and halls open for students who cannot go home. Although, as many as 74 percent of students are being asked to pay for accommodation they are not using. On top of this, they are paying tuition fees for resources they are unable to use like libraries and in – person teaching. Reports show that students are already struggling to cope emotionally, without the added pressure of losing out on money, jobs and accommodation. Most will have to wait months for an appointment with a psychological service.
However, there are support services in place for them. The University of Brighton has set up a Facebook page for students to stay in touch and share tips on managing self – isolation. Students can also email or call their guidance tutor, Ant Ryan, who will then give them advice or put them in touch with the correct services. I asked what advice he is giving students struggling with their mental health: “Plan your day and leave time to relax and recuperate. Eat well, exercise moderately and safely. Try to get enough sleep. Avoid unhelpful coping mechanisms.”
Although necessary, the decision to close universities has negatively affected students’ mental health as Ethan Laurent, an MA student at Royal Holloway tells me:
“I would say my mental health has been affected negatively. My main concern is third term payments. If students aren’t going to be returning to campus or taking exams, there should at least be a discussion about cutting down tuition payments.”
A petition calling the government to reimburse student fees has reached more than 331,000 signatures as of 27th April. Student Roost, a company which runs student halls has said that they will be cancelling residents’ payments from 1 May if they plan to move out, or have already moved out. However, the government is insisting that tuition and maintenance fees should be payed as planned by the Student Loans Company and will only consider further options once tuition has been paid for the incoming term.
Though it will cost very little to the government, universities may be forced to lay staff off if they were to reimburse students’ fees as Kate Aughterson, Principal Lecturer at the University of Brighton tells me: “If this continues into the September term, I think universities will begin to lay staff off. Without incoming student fees, they will not be able to pay our salaries.”
The transition to remote learning has been difficult for everyone and it could be a while until life gets back to normal as the government extends lockdown. The future looks uncertain for university staff and students as Kate Aughterson explains, “This is something that will take a decade to recover from. I think there will be a large-scale re-structuring of the university, its provision, its purpose, and our jobs.” Some universities may be forced to close for good as many plead for funding to survive this crisis.
A lack of international students could cost universities more than £100m, as many as 30,000 could lose their jobs if the government doesn’t intervene. As for a solution, Universities UK has advised universities to limit student recruitment and asked the government to offer emergency loans to institutions in financial difficulty. At this point, there is very little that universities can do: they can’t afford to halt student loans without laying staff off. The government should grant a pause on student loans and provide universities with the money they need to survive the coronavirus crisis. Otherwise, the consequences could be seen for years to come.