I’m a third year and I haven’t even received half of the uni experience I’ve paid £27k for

‘As strikes are set to take place at the start of December, it just feels like Groundhog Day’

For anyone who’s third year and started university in 2019 like myself, I think the general consensus between students is that we have not got our money’s worth in any shape or form. What have we really spent our £27,000 plus, on?

To sum up my university experience so far, I have spent more time at home attending online uni than I have on campus. YES, I got a Freshers Week. However, it doesn’t dismiss the strike action at the end of 2019 or the disruption COVID has caused to my in-person teaching.

In late November to early December 2019, lecturers began striking which effected my teaching. Lectures were cancelled and work was put online on Blackboard. This is a very useful university resource, however, being a first year, we missed crucial time learning how to use this website for teaching and assignments, so university life was difficult.

As the year 2020 came, I think most students felt some kind of hope. After having six weeks of strikes, it was time for our studies to return as normal. This did not happen. In March, Covid and lockdown one hit, resulting in university teaching moving online.

Maybe if students were given some kind of adaptation period from in-person teaching to online, we could have coped slightly better, but this was done with immediate impact. I’m certain this had devastating effects on many students’ education.

For me, as a first year, I felt completely lost. I was back at home in my childhood bedroom, trying to piece together my assignments without knowing how to properly write them. The university tried to be helpful. They put lots of information and learning materials online for us to use. But, I believe, for the cohort of 2019, the damage had already been done with all the missed teaching in semester one.

Now I really wish I could say second year was much better. Sadly it was worse. It involved a whole year of online learning, sat in a freezing cold student house, wondering how I was actually going to pass the academic year. I can’t begin to explain the toll it took on my mental health, trying to write assignments and revise for exams from a few PowerPoint slides.

I have focused here, a lot on the educational losses I have suffered as a 2019 university student. What people forget too, is the social impact the strike action and pandemic had on my ‘university experience’.

I know first and foremost, you go to university to get a degree but, socialising is also a major part of life at uni. This doesn’t just mean going to bars and clubs, but also means being able to go to the library with your mates or seeing people from a society or sports club on a weekly basis. None of this was possible for me in my first two years and yet, as students, we were still expected to produce work of a high standard. Speaking from experience, this felt impossible.

NatWest Student Living Index 2021 looked at how the pandemic had effected students. The survey found 43 per cent of students found their degree stressful and a further 33 per cent said they were not enjoying their degree as a result of the pandemic.

I do think university students needed more support. I think we needed more support when we returned back to in-person teaching after spending a year in our bedrooms staring at a screen.

I wish I could end this piece on a high, and say things are on the up. But as strikes are set to take place at the start of December, it just feels like Groundhog Day.

I feel like I haven’t even received 50 per cent of what I paid £27,000 in tuition fees for this degree, and thousands like myself will feel the same.

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