Cardiff’s class of 2021 on the woes of having their final year during a pandemic

Only 12 per cent of students felt supported by their university

Everyone talks about your final year of university being the best. You’ve established a group of friends, know your way around your uni city, and have finally learned some tricks about balancing your workload. There’s your graduation to look forward to, and it’s the last time most of you will be living with six of your besties. Final year is hyped up by many before us, but this year’s class of 2021 haven’t quite had the same experience. With the Covid-19 pandemic erupting last March, final year students have had their entire year interrupted by lockdowns, social-distancing, and online learning.

We investigated Cardiff students’ perspectives on their final year through an Instagram survey, and here’s what we found out…

Only 12 per cent of students felt supported by their university

Only 158 out of 1,265 (12 per cent) of final year students we spoke to in Cardiff had felt supported by their university throughout this academic year, a shockingly low figure. We’ve seen examples of students exercising these opinions throughout the year. In October, Cardiff’s students protested about tuition fees for the year, arguing that the level of service does not warrant the same tuition fees as pre-covid university did.

Students think the university could have done more

We spoke to students through an Instagram poll, asking their thoughts about this academic year, and 576 of 1538 students (37 per cent) agreed that the university could’ve done more. The second most popular response was with 525 of 1538 (34 per cent) respondents, who agreed that this year has been a shambles all round. Only a mere 170 of 1538 respondents voted that this year has been out of the university’s hands.

Throughout the year, there’s been a certain tension between the university and students, and in March, Cardiff students started a petition to scrap the university’s updated Covid-19 policies, which included unnecessary surveillance and intimidation tactics. One rule stated there cannot be more than four students in a kitchen at one time, so flats bigger than four would get fined. Another rule was if you failed to report a party, you too would be responsible, even if you were not there.

95 per cent of students don’t feel supported by the government this academic year

The Cardiff Tab asked students whether they’d felt supported by the government throughout the year, but a staggering 1290 out of the 1361 students that we spoke to claimed that they haven’t felt supported by the government, equating to a massive 95 per cent.

We also asked students on our Instagram poll if their mental health has suffered more during this academic year, to which 1340 students (out of 1577) agreed that yes, this year has led to a deterioration in their mental health at university.

Some students feel that they’ve not had a break for the whole year

The Cardiff Tab spoke to one student who explained, “haven’t had a break since the start of the year”, going on to say that she spent the entire Christmas break completing a dissertation, and will be revising for exams throughout the entire Easter holiday period too. This student questioned, “why do we have to pay £9,500 for this mental health declining experience?”.

Some students received an email from their schools last week, encouraging them to take a well-deserved break from their studies across the Easter period 26th March to 16th April. This is practically impossible for most students who have a haul of deadlines straight after the Easter period, and exams following that. However, it appears a lot of university staff are taking two-weeks annual leave over this period, meaning students cannot even access any help before their deadlines.

Should the government fund a mental health year?

Five months ago, The Cardiff Tab investigated Cardiff student’s mental health as a result of the pandemic, finding that students felt emotionally exhausted and drained.

When we reached out to Cardiff’s students about their final year at university, one student told the Cardiff Tab, “I really feel like we should have been able to take a year out but still receive a student loan. For our mental health and the quality of our degrees sake, we should’ve been allowed to take a year out of study to rest and wait until we could have a better quality of education”. The student went on to say that herself and many others, “had to do the year of the degree just to get the student loan to pay for the houses we’d signed for”.

Financing this year has been a struggle for many

For many students, finance has been a big issue throughout this academic year. Although many students get student loans, a large proportion of students rely on part-time work in bars, shops and restaurants to add to their income. With the closure of these establishments throughout the year, many students across the country and in Cardiff have lost their jobs as well as their income. Although some might argue that students are in fact saving money this year, I would argue that the costs have only shifted to different items.

Myself and many other students have had to pay for higher speed wifi this academic year due to every student working from home, and with houses between four and ten, this is a high WiFi demand. Being in the rainy cold city that is Cardiff, the heating and water bills have also taken a bit of a hammering, as we’re all in the house all day long. So whilst we might not be spending our cash on nights out and game days, it doesn’t mean its not coming out of our pockets in other ways.

Are tutors letting their anger out on students?

One student who spoke to The Cardiff Tab explained, “it’s like tutors were letting out their bitterness and anger on us, if anything this years workload and stress was the worst because most off the staff were just too bitter”.

In January of 2021, there was an uproar amongst Cardiff University students, when a Bioscience lecturer accidentally uploaded a video of herself calling students ‘idiots’ for wanting a safety net this academic year. In the accidentally-released video, the lecturer can be heard saying, “Well, students have graduated for hundreds of years without the bloody safety net policy, how do you think we all got here?”.

Throughout the academic year, and especially during this event, a number of Cardiff University students felt like staff hadn’t supported them, but rather were letting out their own frustrations on students.

Last week, a university student posted feedback she’d received from a lecturer when she approached them about feeling stressed about an assignment. The lecturer’s email response wrote, “have you tried being less stressed?” as a solution to the student’s worries.

‘We’re not prepared to graduate’

We reached out to some final year students in Cardiff, with one healthcare student explaining, “we’re not prepared to graduate” as “we’ve just never seen out of a textbook”, so she worries for how she will be able to adapt to a real practice environment, without having any experience like former years have had. Another student told The Cardiff Tab that she’s, “just pissed off tbh – wish I’d been able to go into classes, I have friends on other courses [music] who have almost 100% face-to-face teaching and we’ve [history students] had none”.

So we’ve put up with a rather shambolic year of home-learning, deteriorating mental health, and cancelled graduations throughout our final year at university. It’s been a really tough year for most of us, but I guess I can now add ‘resilient’ to my CV, right?

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• A ‘love letter’ to Cardiff students: Cardiff grad writes six-page complaint to university

• Cardiff University introduces ‘COVID-19 Disruption Complaints’ process

• Cardiff students start petition against new ‘draconian’ Covid-19 policies