Strikes and a pandemic have left my uni experience in tatters. I want my money back

This isn’t worth the nine grand a year we’re paying

With another round of strikes happening this week, it marks nearly two years since I’ve actually seen the inside of a full lecture theatre. Strikes in early 2020 plus a year and a half of pandemic teaching have left my uni experience in tatters and to put it simply, I want my money back.

As a third-year student, I’ve had a far from normal experience. My first year was plagued by two separate waves of weeks of strike action followed by the summer term being effectively cancelled by coronavirus. Then my second year was held entirely online – I didn’t step on campus once, completing my degree from the same four walls I was also socialising (on Zoom), eating, and relaxing in.

I can’t help feeling saddened at what could have been and what I’ve missed out on

Now as I enter my final year I’m only just adapting to what “normal” uni life is like. But with my uni experience coming to an end in summer, it’s much too late and I’m left angry when I think about what I’ve actually paid for. I hardly know my way around the campus that I was denied access to, I have little to no relationships with lecturers and tutors due to online learning, and friendships that should have blossomed over my three years were lost due to lockdowns.

When you talk to anyone about university, you’re always told it’s “the best years of your life” and told to make the most of it before you enter the real world. But how is this possible when my uni experience has been tainted by a year and a half of pandemic teaching and not one but THREE strikes? Although I’ve still enjoyed my time at uni, I can’t help feeling saddened at what could have been and all the typical experiences I’ve missed out on as a result of the pandemic and strike action. I feel ripped off for paying the full price for a lesser experience.

Our university experience has been far from what we were promised. As well as missing out on regular teaching and the chance to actually engage with learning and use the facilities we’re paying for, we’ve also missed out on the chance to meet people, join societies and try new things in the way that previous cohorts have. And all of this only serves to worsen the student mental health crisis.

We’re paying thousands for a sub-par experience

Whilst I fully understand and respect the need to strike and sympathise with the lecturers, as a student paying £9,250 per year, it is frustrating to see that the money is clearly not going where it should be. I also don’t believe this year, of all years, is the time to be striking with the damages students have already felt to our education.

But the only way this could be somewhat rectified is through getting our money back. Yet despite the huge disruption to our studies, we haven’t been offered a single penny in compensation. When the government has offered financial assistance to many other groups in society throughout the pandemic, whether that be through the furlough scheme or offering support to small businesses, I can’t help wonder why students have been completely ignored other than to be blamed for a rise in cases.

At the end of the day, we’re paying for a service, and if universities and the government want to treat us like consumers and pound signs rather than people, we should be getting the service we’re paying for. And normally if you don’t receive the service you pay for, you are offered a refund or some sort of compensation for the difference. So why isn’t this the case with the thousands we’re paying for a sub-par experience?

Refunds would help with the huge amount of debt that students are burdened with, but it will not make up for the lost time, memories and not to mention the huge student mental health crisis that has worsened since the pandemic. No amount of money will give us this time and experience back but it’s a start and it needs to happen.

Strikes and a pandemic have ruined my uni experience. I’m angry and I want my money back.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Universities could refund students over the strike disruptions

Don’t blame your lecturers for striking. Blame uni management for giving them no choice

Here’s what went down on the first day of lecturer strikes