University students return to campus for in-person classes and social activities

Some students in England have started returning to campus for in-person classes after months of distance learning – but for many undergraduates their education is already over for the year.

All remaining university students are now allowed to return to their accommodation for the school year and participate in face-to-face activities on campus as restrictions are relaxed across England.

But many institutions have already completed the academic year courses and are now running exams, which are largely held remotely.

University leaders have criticized the government for delaying the return of face-to-face classes for all students so far – and a number of students have demanded reimbursement of tuition fees amid the disruption.

She told the PA News Agency, “I think the price of the course should definitely be lowered. £ 9,000 is a lot for a wholesale online course.

The 20-year-old said: “It only recently struck me that the year is almost over and I don’t really have a lot of in-person teaching. So that shocked me to be honest.

She added: “I certainly would have appreciated it if this [in-person lessons] had started earlier because now it’s summer term and there isn’t really a lot of teaching going on right now.

“There are a lot more people for the exam season. But very soon people will be leaving and it will start to drain, which is weird. “

Most students in England, except those taking critical courses, have been urged not to return to university as part of the third lockdown announced in January.

Students in hands-on classes, which require specialized equipment and facilities, began to resume face-to-face teaching on March 8.

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, Vice President of Higher Education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “In reality, only a small portion of students will be returning to university today.

“At this point in the term, most of the classes are over, many students are already on an internship or have decided they had better wait until the next school year to come back.

“A significant number of students will be returned to housing for the school year weeks ago, wanting to use the accommodation they were still obligated to pay.

“With the widespread financial insecurity facing students, it is disheartening that so many people have to make decisions about accessing their education based on affordability.

“Students deserve better than what they experienced this year.

Ian Dunn, rector of Coventry University, said the government’s decision not to allow all students to return to classes in person so far – when other restrictions were lifted last month – seemed “perverse”.

He told PA: “One-third of my students are international and of the two-thirds who are not international, half commute and half are residential.

“So the idea that we would have this huge movement of people across the country, I think, wasn’t necessarily very obvious.

“As for ‘why open pubs before opening universities? I think that goes against what the government was saying very clearly that education was the most important thing and it didn’t appear to be the case in April. 12. “

Mr Dunn said students still teaching this term are offered a blended learning approach – with five hours of in-person lessons per week and the rest of the courses online.

He said, “There are definitely more students on campus today, but we offer services entirely online. Some students have opted for this and we have tried to give them the choice they want to make.

For college courses that still have some teaching, returning students should get tested for Covid-19 twice a week throughout the term.

At the University of Hull, students said it was “really nice” to see people come back to campus.

Face-to-face conferences were held at the Cottingham Road site on Monday, while cafes and bars welcomed returning customers inside.

James Aygun, a third-year drama and theater practice student, said it was “really difficult” trying to study his subject online.

He told PA, “Being back on campus has been really refreshing. Just seeing everyone, it’s so much easier to create theater, so it made our life so much easier.

Mr Aygun, who returned to college in March, said: “It’s just nice to see everyone again because last month we’ve been here pretty much alone, so just to have this camaraderie, it’s so much better when everyone is there, everyone is happy.

“People, especially students, want to immerse themselves in the interaction, so it’s really important that everyone is back, that everyone is feeling good, so it’s really cool. “

Vanessa Wilson, CEO of the University Alliance, said: “We have been calling for this for many months, and although the return is later than expected, our member universities are ready and prepared to welcome their students back to reap the benefits. the best part. last trimester with many activities and opportunities for learning and development; alongside exceptional face-to-face teaching sessions.

She added: “Alliance universities have a high proportion of commuter students, who live locally but cannot access campus. We understand that there is a huge demand among all students, including those returning from elsewhere, to be allowed to return to university for the remainder of the term, and we expect the numbers to be high. . “

Dr Tim Bradshaw, Managing Director of The Russell Group, which are traditionally the most selective institutions, said: “While many universities now run exams, students will be able to participate in a mix of online and in-person teaching, as well as access libraries and other facilities on campus.

“Universities have also planned additional non-academic activities to help students develop peer networks and prepare for the world of work.

“Our universities have worked hard to secure their campuses against Covid, and we encourage all students to accept the offer of free tests twice a week so that we can help contain future outbreaks of Covid.”

Students were encouraged to take a test via home or community testing at least one day before returning to their accommodation for the school term.

All students will be encouraged to take three supervised Covid-19 tests three to four days apart at an asymptomatic testing site on campus. They will then have to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

A spokesperson for Universities UK (UUK) said: “Universities have been working hard to prepare in-person activities for returning students, including group work, graduate support and on-campus sport. “

Joel C. Hicks