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NUS: ‘Students have been ignored throughout pandemic’

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The National Union of Students has released a new set of research which shows that 67% of students feel the Government are not acting in their interest in their fight against COVID-19.

The organisation that represents 600 Student Unions across the country (but not LSU since 2016) believes that their new survey demonstrates that students “do not think they have been taken into account throughout the government’s response to coronavirus”.

The Coronavirus and Students Survey also highlights a series of other issues facing students throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, including financial hardship, a ‘toll’ on student welfare, and the ‘major issues’ online learning could bring to some students.

Key Figures

60% of students have reported low self-esteem and feelings of isolation

3 in 4 students worry about how they will pay their rent due to Coronavirus

18% of students say they have not had enough support to deal with COVID-19

45% of students say their teaching was not of good enough standard in Semester 2

20% of students were unable to access their education online last term

3 in 5 students do not trust the government to aid students in a second wave

75% of students were concerned about career prospects after graduation

The most significant issue for students has proven to be career prospects and finances, with the NUS claiming that students are “close to the brink financially”, with 70% of students needing to find additional financial support during lockdown.

Student Finance England’s recent announcement that students who have been hit with financial hardship can claim additional maintenance loan will be met with positivity, but the NUS warn that this won’t be enough, stating “Governments across the UK need to act urgently to ensure that students do not go hungry or end up in rent arrears next term.”

However, the research has shown that overall, students have been abiding by social distancing guidelines, with 73% of students reporting that they have been interacting less with students from their institution – which contrasts the Government’s new focus on young people breaking lockdown rules.

This reduction in socialising has, however, taken its toll on students’ wellbeing, with financial stress and a lack of physical contact leading to “negative impacts on mental health” amongst the student population.

With new university lockdown regulations and the ‘rule of six’ coming into play from next week, young people’s mental wellbeing is unlikely to improve over the coming months, although the Government has said it is “essential” that the new rules come into play to halt the spread of the virus.

Online Learning

A lack of access to online learning could also lead to further welfare concerns and division, and the NUS warns that if teaching is going to continue online, universities “must make sure that students have the resources that they need to be able to study remotely.”

However, Universities UK, which represents 137 universities across the UK, said that it expected that the vast majority of universities would retain in-person teaching, including Loughborough University.

It also said that “In addition, the overwhelming majority are providing some in-person social activities and support and wellbeing. Most students will experience a blended offer of online and in-person underpinned by a safety first approach.”

The Government’s SAGE Committee has acknowledged that online-only learning “would have an impact on students’ mental health”, with the Government therefore recommending that learning should be in person wherever possible.

However, the University & Colleges Union that represents lecturers has disagreed with the government’s stance on face-to-face teaching, saying “We cannot see why the government is insisting young people move around the country and engage in unnecessary face-to-face interactions.”

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