Working from home seriously disadvantages me, so I’m calling for unis to void this year

This is even bigger than an extenuating circumstance

Look, we’re all sick of hearing about coronavirus.  You literally cannot escape from it, especially now that Boris has put Britain on lockdown. It’s made life for everyone a hundred times more stressful, but particularly for students.

GCSE’s and A-levels have been cancelled. Unis have suspended face to face teaching, seminars and lectures are done over Hangouts and Zoom calls and most exams and assessments have moved online.

Universities have tried to adapt, and this might be fine for some students, but what about those who are suddenly at a disadvantage as a result this? Not everyone has an expensive laptop, fast Wi-Fi, or the peace and quiet at home that’s required to concentrate? What if students have a vulnerable family member that they need to care for, or cannot effectively access the internet? This could result in their grade for this year being significantly lower than if they had been able to access the resources available to other students, or that would have been available to us had we remained at uni if the world was back to normal.

I am struggling with exactly this. I study English at Aberdeen University, and personally, I’m finding online learning impossible. I live in the countryside, without a stable internet connection. I have to sit on a particular step on my stairs to access Blackboard. I also have to assist with the care of my disabled sister, because the nurses and carers who would previously help us can no longer come to our house. Caring for someone is a 24/7 job, so where do I find the time to write an essay and teach myself exam material? Why should I have to be banished to sit halfway up the staircase for hours at a time, trying to find good referencing material without access to a library? The effort required is so extensive, far more than that required of students with adequate and comfortable surroundings, that it will undoubtedly set me back in terms of time and mental effort. I am not able to produce my best work, or be assessed accurately, in this kind of environment. It’s not fair.

Also, it feels as this the universities across the UK have forgotten that there is also the issue of a global pandemic occurring outside? GCSE’s and A-levels are cancelled for this very reason, why do they expect university exams to keep going? Universities are more likely to have summatives, January exams and coursework to base grades on anyway. These final assessments are not necessary. There are more pressing issues to focus on, compared to writing an essay about posthumanism literature, or filling in an exam about hedonism? I am struggling to teach myself the information I need to sit an exam. My current grades are not the best, due to a year filled with mental health issues. But even with that, I would much rather take the poor grades (still a pass), and have the rest of the year voided, than continue to have sleepless nights on my staircase, trying to listen to a lecture recording about modern literature.

There have been several petitions to cancel exams and coursework for university students since the majority of students were sent home and classes moved online. This is a very fair demand, and I’m calling for it too. Especially for first and second years, since these results do not count towards our final grades later on in our courses. Third years, additionally, should not have to worry about their final degree outcome being affected by such a massive disruption. And the universities must also consider the fact that staff have been striking throughout March. Our learning process has been disrupted constantly, all year, and yet we are expected to carry on at home as if nothing is wrong!

Forcing students to continue studying for exams and submitting coursework is anxiety-inducing and unreasonable, especially for those who, like myself, do not have the easiest home circumstances.  Surely there are more important things to be worrying about in the current times? I am asking for allowances to be made, because students deserve what has been widely described as “exceptional circumstances” to be treated as an extenuating circumstance. Void this year, please, and save your students’ grades from suffering any more than they already have.