We spoke to students from Leeds universities to find out how the pandemic has impacted their student experience so far.
Second-year student Ellie Corkill, currently studying Economics and Finance at Leeds Beckett University, told us how much harder the pandemic has made doing well in her degree. She said: "I haven’t stepped foot in campus once this year, my entire course has been online. Online teaching lacks the quality of face-to-face teaching yet we’re still being charged the full £9,000.
“I find the way the government has handled us students ridiculous, they’ve hardly addressed us at all throughout this pandemic and it feels like we’ve been ignored even though we’re paying so much money to go to university.”
“I went home for Christmas under the impression that I could return to Leeds afterwards within the travel window. I’m paying lots of money for accommodation in Leeds that I can’t even go back to, something needs to be put in place so that we receive a partial refund.
“The pandemic has massively impacted the social side of university, it has been a completely different vibe to last year. Even though we were able to go out for drinks in the first couple of months of this academic year, we’ve missed out on all the night clubs/ events, we’ve had no proper student nights out at all.”
“Being a second-year student I’m extremely fortunate to have already made friends throughout my first-year of university. It must be so awful for the first-year students of this academic year unless you’re living with people you get on with. The main way I made friends in first year was going out and socialising, it must be so difficult to make new friends with the current restrictions.”
Euan Kneale, a third-year student studying Music Technology at Leeds Beckett University told us the numerous ways in which the pandemic has impacted him. He said: "I’m forced to work harder at home to receive the same results. Being a student that relies heavily on university equipment loans and access to music labs/ studios. I often have to download huge files which requires good internet access, at home, I’ve previously had to wait hours for something that would take seconds at university.”
Christie Monk, a third-year student studying Filmmaking at Leeds Arts University said: "We are unable to return to our houses, yet we are still required to pay the rent for them. The rent on these properties should be frozen until we are allowed to return. There are too many students struggling with money, which only adds to stress and mental wellbeing, it needs to be addressed.”
Hon-Yin Lai, who is currently completing a Masters in Sustainability and Business at University of Leeds suggested reckless students may to be blame for the spread of COVID-19. He said: "Doing a masters course that started in lockdown and will more than likely end in restrictions I kind of knew what I was in for. In terms of teaching, I can’t really complain, I still have live seminars and lectures on a weekly basis and don’t blame lecturers who have done their best to adapt to the transition to online learning.
“It’s weird on my one year course that I have never even met most of my course mates in person, so you do lose that social side of university which to me is the main reason to go to university.
“Students are more reckless in terms of spreading Covid and some blame does fall on myself who broke some rules on socialising during the lockdowns and the many students that did the same thing. But it’s bound to happen when you have young people living together away from home, no matter what regulations you have in place- students will be students.
“What I don’t agree with is university saying that Covid has not impacted our studies, yet they have closed all the libraries and working spaces.”
Molly Parker, a third-year student studying Liberal Arts at Leeds Beckett University, told us how she feels the university are trying their hardest throughout the pandemic, yet feels the government are not doing enough to support students in the current climate. She said: "Leeds Beckett have absolutely tried their hardest to support their students. They are the first university to introduce a safety net scheme and I really appreciate the effort they are making.
“But everyone is aware that you can’t get the same standard of tuition over Zoom compared to face-to-face teaching. The government have completely ignored all university students; it feels like if you don’t have any big exams like GCSE’s or A Levels to sit, then suddenly you don’t exist.”
“I live in a student house and have decided to stay here, purely because I can’t afford to have the rent go to waste. I am still paying full rent, for a house that I didn’t live in for 5 months.”
“I am also paying full tuition fees for two hours’ worth of Zoom calls a week. Yet the government refuses to even consider students, unless they’re using us as a scapegoat for their failed lockdown measures and dismal handling of the virus or just simply tarnishing our name.”
Jaisha Nelson, a third-year student studying Media at Leeds Trinity University explained how she feels students have pulled the short straw during the pandemic: "Covid has been a nightmare for us students. The fact we have to pay rent for accommodation that we can’t travel to because of the restrictions is ridiculous.
“I feel like us university students have pulled the short straw during this pandemic. The restrictions have made us isolated and on top of that we are still expected to produce top notch work that’s to a professional and high-quality standard. It’s crazy.
“I find it baffling that students are the first to get the finger pointed to them for spreading the virus, once I received dirty looks for walking to the shop with my housemates.”
Leeds Beckett University has become the first university in the UK to introduce a 'safety net' for all students, which helps students use existing module credits to pass. Students at the university said the no-detriment policy will leave them feeling more secure regarding the overall outcome of their degree.
Leeds Trinity University issued the following statement on Twitter, which said: "Following last night’s government announcement about the national lockdown, we are working through the guidelines and awaiting further details from the Department for Education.
"We will email students and staff as soon as possible to explain what the new restrictions mean for you. Please keep an eye on your University inbox. In the meantime, it is important that students remain at their current address - whether at their home/ vacation address or in their term-time accommodation- to minimise the transmission of the virus.”
Leeds Beckett University issued this guidance: "On 4 January the Prime Minister announced a new national lockdown in England. The Government guidance includes information about universities which you can read here.
"The guidance allows for students who are undertaking training in the following subject areas to return to campus for in-person, on-campus learning in line with their timetable: Health, Education, Social work.
"Researchers and research students should conduct their research from home where possible unless you need to access specialist facilities on campus.
"The Government has asked all other students to remain where they are and study from their current residence wherever possible. If you have not already done so, please do not to return to Leeds or to campus. Your timetable will be updated to reflect any changes to your teaching."
A spokesman for the University of Leeds posted on its site: "Over the past couple of weeks the rate of infection from coronavirus has increased considerably in some parts of the UK.
"While to date Leeds has not seen a sharp rise, the University is nonetheless subject to new restrictions that the Government announced on 30 December, and England is now facing national restrictions until at least mid-February.
"In summary, these restrictions mean that, except for those taking a small number of specified subjects (which at Leeds means Clinical and Social Work programmes), teaching will be online and students should not return to university until further notice – this will be mid-February at the earliest. Regardless of when you return, you must be tested for covid-19 – and found negative – before you can interact with others or use facilities on campus."