‘I’m a bit p*ssed off’: Liverpool students react to being sent home from China

The Year in China programme has been cancelled due to coronavirus

Earlier today an email sent by UoL officials advised students on their year abroad in China to leave the country “as soon as practically possible” due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The email also told students they would be reimbursed for travel home and given free accommodation for the remainder of their studies in Liverpool, and any students who are not currently in China will have their belongings sent back to them free of charge.

The Liverpool Tab has spoken to students who have been affected by their second semester in China being cancelled, one of whom said the university’s communication has dried up and “left them hanging” about what to do next.

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“We have been told that we should leave China if we are there and not return even if we leave all our stuff there”, Ellie Fussell told The Liverpool Tab.

As it won’t be possible for students to complete their Year in China, she said “our degree is turning into something with a semester in China and they’re offering us a semester in placement when we go back to Liverpool, which should start in March, but we have no clue as to what those placements may be.”

UoL’s Pro-Vice Chancellor Gavin Brown told The Liverpool Tab: “As an exceptional measure we have developed a Semester in Industry option for students who choose to continue with their studies this year.

“Placement details are still being finalised but will include a range of projects in the University as well as in the City of Liverpool which will provide real-world experience and be an important addition to CVs.”

She added: “UoL said that we will be under ‘no financial detriment’ and that they will help us with accommodation but we don’t know what that means.

“I think they will offer us student accommodation at the price we would be paying if we were in China, but I would hate to move into a flat of first years.”

Ellie told The Liverpool Tab she’s moving into her friend’s spare room, and she knows “a few other people are deciding instead to try and sort their own houses.

“We have no clue if Liverpool will support those who don’t want to live in the accommodation they will provide,” she said.

Stock Photo (Credit: SWNS)

The university has guaranteed flights home will be reimbursed, and any outstanding rent or Student Finance payments will be resolved. Ellie said: “There are plenty of other costs we paid at the beginning where we won’t see the money again.”

Students who embarked on the Year in China had to pay a residence permit, as well as cover extra costs like their £40 mandatory health checks.

Ellie said she suspects students who have been living in China will also struggle to adjust their finances to living in the UK again.

“I went to the food court for dinner every day and it cost £1,” she told The Liverpool Tab. “But my food shop is going to cost a lot more than that in the UK.”

Ellie is trying not to let it affect her travelling, saying: “It was hard when we woke up to the first email and we were just left hanging with no idea what we were going to do when we return to the UK.”

Stock Photo (Credit: SWNS)

Another student who has been affected, Andy McConnell, is also wary of the “Semester in Industry” being offered by the university as a replacement for students’ semesters in China.

“We are being told to do a semester in Liverpool that might not even be linked to our degrees, so I’m a bit pissed off,” he told The Liverpool Tab.

“It’s a complicated time for the uni and they are just doing what they can to help,” he added.

Andy, like other students who were scheduled to begin their second semester in China, is currently “backpacking around south-east Asia.

“I can’t really complain,” he told The Liverpool Tab. “It’s just banter, at the end of the day. Realistically, I was always gonna find a way back to the Brookhouse.”

Stock Photo (Credit: SWNS)

Worries over continuing studies in Liverpool are a common theme among students being sent home.

Hannah Free told The Liverpool Tab she’s worried about the placements on offer and suspects it could be “doing admin in the Guild or something completely useless.”

She said: “The support from the uni hasn’t been the best, I know loads of us have been asking what to do for a week or so and they’ve only just got back to us.”

Hannah told The Liverpool Tab she’s relieved students “won’t be financially disadvantaged, and will be relocated to uni accommodation for the same price as our very cheap Chinese accommodation.

“I know lots of people are wary of the support and options being given to us, but we can’t do anything else, really,” she said.

Professor Gavin Brown also told The Liverpool Tab: “We know that this is a worrying time for the university community, particularly those with friends and family in China, and we are doing everything possible to support them.

“Public Health England are clear that the risk to the public in the UK is low. We are working with them, as the experts in this area, and implementing their advice. We are constantly reviewing the situation and providing regular updates to both students and staff based on advice from Public Health England and other expert bodies, including the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the World Health Organisation.”

He added: “Unfortunately, given the current situation with the new coronavirus it is not possible for students due to be studying in China this semester to do so. In light of this exceptional set of circumstances, we have put a range of special support measures in place to ensure they will not experience any financial or academic detriment as a result of needing to return to the UK early.

“We have also provided advice to students on the option to suspend their studies. This includes preliminary information on Student Finance England’s procedures and the offer of further expert advice from our Money Advice and Guidance Team. We would strongly encourage an student with concerns to contact this term for support.”

Featured image via Instagram (@jrpou)

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