The government’s neglect of students has made university unbearable. I wish I never came

I am clinging on to the thought of life after university

Like thousands of other students, I am graduating this year and I’m currently clinging on to the idea that life gets better after university.

Back in 2018, just before I started, I was overwhelmed with teachers and family members telling me that university was going to be the best experience of my life. I’m not stupid, I know that no one could have predicted the pandemic but I definitely didn’t expect the government to ignore over two million students all at once.

That being said, I am very thankful to have met some life long friends at uni, they’ve been the reason why I stayed and I know not everyone is lucky enough to find their ‘people’ at uni. But this doesn’t mean I don’t regret going. The past three years have been stressful, painful, depressing and disrupted beyond belief. So to whoever sat me down in 2018 and told me the next three years will be the best time of my life – I really hope you were lying.

The lack of government support for students since the start of the pandemic has honestly tarnished my entire experience. It’s put everything into perspective that we clearly do not matter at all. It’s not fair that we are being punished for being students. The government is seeing our mental health decline rapidly as a result of how our universities are managed, but they still choose to not intervene. And yet we are having to pay £9,250 for an entire year of teaching that we’ve barely received.

The university I attend now is not the university I signed up to three years ago. The way we’re neglected by our senior leaders and the government is vile – it’s ruined my entire experience and I will never forgive them for it.

The incompetence from the government and universities is shameful. Students are literally dying because of how things have been managed. Freshers aren’t wanting to return to their halls because of how traumatic their experience was in the first term. The government’s ignorance is the reason why so many students will continue to galvanise against them. But let’s be honest – there were loads of problems with higher education before the pandemic hit. The only thing coronavirus has done is highlight shambolic university leadership and flaws within higher education.

Since joining university, I’ve seen three periods of industrial action. Back in February last year, there was one of the biggest ever wave of strikes over higher education pay, pensions and working conditions. I respect and understand why members of staff strike. Students aren’t angry at them – we’re angry *for* them. We’re frustrated because their demands aren’t being met which ultimately affects our teaching. Our Vice-Chancellors and senior leaders are on a stupid amount of money, nearly 50 of them are still earning a six figure salary. I did not sign up to my university so I could line the pocket of my Vice-Chancellor. Students are so bored of being used as cash cows to pay the wages of people who capitalise off our education fees.

Right now, there is nothing I want more other than to get out of higher education for good. The lack of support is dangerous and terrifying. Here’s just a few examples of the horrifying reality of being a university student: 11 universities didn’t even bother appointing any new mental health staff this year, at the University of Sussex it can even take up to 15 weeks to get access to the counselling services, and university confession page admins told The Tab suicidal posts have doubled since the start of the pandemic. Students are literally dying because of the silence of the government and senior leaders.

When will people start lobbying for university students? Why do primary and secondary school kids get more support than us? There’s a mental health crisis going on and no one cares and no one is listening. Students have exhausted all their platforms trying to speak about it. The issues within higher education is a drop in the ocean compared to everything else going on. How many more students have to die so that we can be acknowledged?

If you’re a struggling student, remember that it gets better. Personally, I am clinging onto the thought of life after university when I am no longer managed by awful leaders who don’t care for my mental health and push me to perform well academically despite studying through a pandemic.

Start signing petitions, keep fighting for no detriment and keep shouting – don’t stop until the government starts listening.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story, please speak to someone or contact Samaritans on 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign against living miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.

You matter.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• The government need to stop blaming young people for following the rules they enforced

• I’d rather drop out of university than have to self-isolate in halls again

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