I refuse to wait until mid February to return to my uni city, here’s why

Good luck stopping me on the M1, Boris

On Monday night, it was announced that students should not return to their university cities until at least mid-February unless you’re on one of the few selected courses. As a BA student, that means I should stay away from uni for another six weeks, and that is not happening.

If you’re expecting a list of whiney reasons why students have been more hard done by in this pandemic than anyone else, you’re going to be disappointed. Look, I’m not about to recklessly break the rules. I want to keep vulnerable people safe as much as the next person. However, I don’t see the issue with students isolating at their university address, rather than their family one.

Despite the narrative, most students aren’t breaking the rules with massive parties, nor do we feel immune to the virus or apathetic towards those suffering at the hands of it. We just want to be able to go back to our university towns so our mental health can be better, the houses we’re paying for can be lived in, we can complete our work to the best of our ability, and have a tiny bit of fun and support from the friends we live with in the process.

Last night in his briefing, Boris Johnson thanked students for not returning to university. But I am just one of thousands who won’t be following that rule. Here’s why:

All my notes are at uni, and I have a dissertation to write

I, along with thousands of final year students, expected to be back at uni after Christmas. We thought we’d take the holidays as a time for relaxation or working on other assignments, so left our books and notes at uni.

My dissertation is due on the 23rdMarch, so if I went back to my uni house in six weeks’ time in line with government guidance, I’d be left with six weeks to research and write a 15,000 word essay, along with finishing other projects and keeping up with normal university work. It is possible that even after mid-February, students will still be advised to stay at their family homes, meaning I may not have access to these notes at all. My deadline could come before lockdown ends (I hate it here).

I know the quality of my work will suffer if I’m not able to access the previous work I have been doing for months. At present, most universities in the country have not implemented safety net measures for their students, therefore I would rather not take the risk by submitting shit work.

Yeah, I’d probably leave it till the last minute anyway, but I’d like to at least have the option to look at my notes before I have to feverishly write 15,000 words in a week, please and thank you.

Feel like pure shit just want my notes back

Being at uni minimises the spread to vulnerable people

We’re literally just asking to isolate at uni rather than in our family homes. Yes, travelling across the country comes with its risks, but once we’re there most of us would be happy to get tested and isolate.

If you’re following the rules (spoiler alert – that’s most of us), being in lockdown with students rather than family makes no difference – everyone stays safe. But unfortunately there will always be some people in all age groups who flout the rules and take the piss. As much as I think these people shouldn’t be able to get away with that during a lockdown, allowing us back to uni means those who are breaking the rules will only spread the virus to students, who are usually very low risk.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely come within five feet of anyone under the age of 18 or over the age of 25 in my student area. So surely this is better than the virus being spread throughout young people’s homes, potentially infecting vulnerable parents?

We’re paying to use university resources, so we should be allowed to access them

I don’t think £9,250 is a “propa bargain” at the best of times, let alone when you’ve barely sat in a lecture hall since February 2020 (thanks, strikes), can only access half-arsed online teaching, and can’t even really use library facilities.

To be honest, we’ve been a bit ripped off. Any other service provider would address this, but for some reason, universities haven’t budged at all when it comes to subsidising student loans or compensating students in any way.

The government is saying we aren’t able to access facilities, but we’re still paying for them and expected to produce the same quality of work without a no-detriment policy? Make it make sense.

My university libraries are still open, so best believe I’ll be getting my money’s worth and booking slots 24/7.

We’re paying for rent for accommodation, so we should be allowed to access it 

In the largest rent strike in 40 years, students are withholding rent at more than 30 UK universities. But at the moment, most of us are still paying full price in private accommodation and university halls.

Rent is spenny. Most of us have lost jobs due to the pandemic, so it’s frustrating paying rent on accommodation we aren’t allowed to live in. Many landlords and accommodation providers last year offered fee waivers. This has not been the case in lockdown two or three (so far). How come we’re being refused entry but still have to pay?

Mental health is deteriorating

We know that university mental health facilities are absolutely backed up. At Sussex, it can take up to 15 weeks to get a one-on-one counselling appointment. At least 39 ambulances have been called to university campuses for suicide and self-harm this term, and at least nine students have taken their own lives since university begun in September. The true number is likely much higher.

A recent NUS survey revealed 52 per cent of students say their mental health has been affected negatively by Covid-19. 29 per cent of students who said their mental health had deteriorated sought mental health support. And only 57 per cent of those people were satisfied with how they’d been supported.

Personally, my mental health hasn’t been dreadful, but I haven’t gone to sleep before 2am since mid-November. The survey revealed I’m not alone; 55 per cent of students said they were not sleeping properly. Not only does this have a negative impact on our mental health, it has a negative impact on our studies, too.

Allowing student mental health to deteriorate to such an extent is irresponsible. Offering students the option to be in the place which makes them happiest and most productive is the safest thing to do. For me and many others, that place is my university house.

I miss precedented times

Home working conditions are less than ideal – why not let us access better facilities in uni rooms and libraries?

I completed my essays in the first lockdown on an ironing board in my mum’s room. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for students to be able to access decent desks to work on, especially when we’re already paying for them in our uni flats and houses.

I’m lucky. Whilst it isn’t as easy to complete work at my family home, I have a brilliant relationship with my family and I do have quiet spaces to go to should I need to concentrate. However, it is much worse for some students, and their needs should not be ignored.

Those from unhappy homes are being asked to complete university work in unhealthy environments. Students with lots of siblings are finding it impossible to focus. Those with lower household incomes or who live in smaller houses are significantly disadvantaged by not being allowed to go back to university to access desk space or computer facilities.

The government aren’t providing support, officially changing examinations, or even giving a proper answer to student concerns. So considering we still have to do the same amount of work as before, I don’t think it’s unfair that we ask to do that work in a setting which allows us to be the most productive we can. Especially as we’re paying for it.

I think we need a new ironing board cover

Uni is my HOME

Wholesome content

I’ve lived in my uni house for my second and third year, and the house, along with the people who inhabit it, is my home. I want to go home.

I don’t believe this is unsafe, and I don’t believe this is unreasonable.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Going home is not a magic fix for every university student. Stop treating it like one

• If the government wants me to stagger my return to uni, it can pay my rent first

• Every university should be implementing a no detriment policy this term, no questions asked