We spoke to the students of Sheff about why face-to-face teaching is so essential

“When you’re doing everything from your bedroom, it’s far too easy to stay in bed all day”

The UCU in Sheffield has called for a total end to face-to-face teaching, unless their five demands are met: risk assessments, no penalty for staff who decline to teach face-to-face, adequate testing, monitoring of Covid risk, health and wellbeing, and to support students to attend as they need to.

With students already back on campus and in halls, this will undoubtedly present another massive challenge, in what seems like a never-ending procession of them.

We spoke to students from both universities, to see how they feel about this policy.

Adam, a Journalism student at Hallam

“Well, Journalism is a pretty technical course, and access to all the uni’s equipment is really important – it’s really hard to do a TV module without a camera, or a radio module when you’re not allowed in the radio suite.

“If this happened, we’d be paying our £9k to stay at home and look at powerpoints. I know it’s difficult, and these are unprecedented times, but to have the idea of a refund totally dismissed by the university, while the Vice-Chancellor makes something like £250k a year is a bit of a joke. If this was what had to happen, they should have made that clear before everyone re-enrolled, or before they applied in freshers’ case!”

Connie*, studying Education at the University of Sheffield

“Whilst I can see that reducing social contact will be good for slowing the spread of the virus, I think we can all agree that students will mix anyway, and that with all the safety measures in place, a lecture hall is probably the safest place to do this. All I can really see this move online achieving is a drop in education quality – a Zoom meeting doesn’t really lend itself that well to debate, and a pre-recorded lecture stops a tutor from engaging with students altogether.

“On top of that, having to use Zoom, Google Drive, Google Docs, and all that other stuff can add more stress – I know I can find it hard sometimes. Genuinely important information can get lost in the tide of emails everyone finds themselves drowning in, with everything you could usually just get told face to face flooding into your inbox. It’s so much harder to manage your mental health when you’re doing everything from your bedroom, it’s far too easy to stay in bed all day and not look after yourself compared to when you actually have to get ready for uni.”

*Name changed for anonymity.

Ella, studying Psychology at Hallam

“I think it’s pretty unreasonable to expect students to take 100% of the responsibility for their own learning, especially considering the price we’re paying. It wasn’t really value for money before, but it’s even worse now – they’ve got the higher education market totally captive, so you just have to pay up if you want a degree. 

“If I could say anything to Jo Grady (General secretary of the UCU), then I’d say that I understand it’s not the fault of the staff, and I understand that these are exceptionally difficult circumstances, but as with every case of industrial action – or indeed any action – against universities, it’s the students who feel it, and the higher-ups who don’t.”

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