‘Half my time at university has been snatched away’

Two days ago, on April 13, final-year university students received the worst news from the government: ‘remaining university students to return no earlier than May 17’.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 2:09 pm
Updated Friday, 16th April 2021, 10:04 am
Lauren Oakley, from Littlehampton, has shared her views on how the pandemic has affected her final year of university

My heart sank and a realisation set in – I have lost the entirety of my final year of university to Covid-19

I had already lost half of my second year to the pandemic, so overall that’s approximately half my university experience down the drain, which is such a sad fact.

Coincidentally, May 17 is also my dissertation hand-in day. After I have submitted my dissertation (pray for me), I am no longer a university student, which means I have absolutely no reason to head back onto campus for in-person teaching.

Lauren Oakley, from Littlehampton, is in her final year of university

I understand that this news is heartbreaking for all university students, but I feel that it hurts that little bit more for those in their final year, like myself.

Second-year students will still get one more year and first-years will get two with universities functioning like normal, hopefully.

But for people like me, the last year in which we can act like students before settling down into the ‘real world’ has been snatched away.

My final year of university has involved me sat behind my laptop in my bedroom in Littlehampton for hours every day. All my teaching has been over Zoom, including one-to-one sessions and group sessions for my final-year major project and for my dissertation.

Asking for help from lecturers over Zoom is not as easy as doing it in person and you can’t quickly catch them in their offices. Information is not communicated as easily, internet connections go down, emails can be missed and things get lost in translation.

As past and present university students know, the UK government pays a student’s chosen university £9,250 a year, which we students have to pay back. This is on the basis that we receive a high-quality education experience.

I study multimedia journalism at Bournemouth. For this course, I mainly need access to the Apple Macs for editing video and audio footage, as they have the software needed to do it to a good standard.

I also need access to the kit room to borrow video and audio equipment, like cameras and microphones, to complete assignments.

We have not had adequate use of any facilities or buildings this year. I had to pay £120 for two months’ use of two specialist programs in order to complete my final-year major project – this would have been free if we were allowed into university.

Eventually, we will be paying back a whole year’s fees, for what?

Another thing I am really struggling to get my head round is that everyone is now allowed to mingle outside in a pub garden, people can walk freely inside a shop and people can meet in parks and private gardens, but university students cannot sit in a large lecture theatre – where it is incredibly easy to socially distance – and learn.

If other education institutions are allowed to go back, why can’t universities?

These three or four years are the most important years of our lives. These years boost our chances of landing our dream jobs.

University can open so many doors and gives us the opportunity to experience what it is like to work in the industry we want to eventually be in.

I bet that most of the people in the government wouldn’t be where they are without university, so why are we just being forgotten?

I hope that something positive comes of this. I have seen so many university students express their outrage at the government’s decision to send university students back right at the end of term, and I am praying that they see us, they hear us, and they do something about it.