‘I expect a refund now more than ever’: Soton students react to extended online learning
‘Where’s my £9k at?’
Last week, the University of Southampton confirmed that teaching will be online until at least 12 April with some exceptions. Students are outraged, mad, disappointed, sad and frustrated. This is a far cry from what any of us signed up for – and it seems the university doesn’t care at all.
The Covid-19 situation in the UK is dire. The pandemic has robbed so many people of so many things. People are losing their lives, their jobs and their sanity. The crisis is ongoing, and as one student says, “it is defo safer [to extend online teaching] but at what cost”. Another student even suggested it was “like a pain au chocolat without the au chocolat”.
The university, the government and the media are disregarding students and we deserve better.
The Soton Tab asked Southampton students their opinions about online learning being extended:
Why are we still paying full tuition fees when we can’t access uni facilities?
We are paying extortionate tuition for inadequate education. This is not our lecturers’ fault – they didn’t sign up for it either – but how can you possibly say this year is worth the same money as last year? In previous years, if we said to our lecturers that we were going to watch a lecture online instead of attending in person, we would have been told that it wasn’t acceptable. But now it is? Now we are simply expected to accept that the quality of teaching is fine just because we are in a pandemic. The university may not have a choice but there needs to be some recognition that university this year is different, and we are suffering because of it.
Many of the Soton students who responded to our Instagram story brought up the issue of tuition fees. They are calling for them to be reduced and to be refunded for the learning lost. One said it was “like wasting my money” whilst another asked “where’s my £9k at?”
And why are we still paying for houses we can’t live in?
Elle, a biomedical science student, says she “expects a refund now more than ever”. Students are spending £9,250 on tuition they are not receiving and question where the money is going. It also seems unfair that some students have access to resources like the library, and some are able to resume in-person teaching, whilst others are not even in Southampton, yet we are all paying the same fee and being expected to produce the same quality of work.
On top of tuition fees, thousands of students have been paying rent on houses they are not living in. I have barely been in my house since March 2020. This is not my landlord’s fault. However, as I entered my final year, I was sold the promise of a blended approach which turned out to be just one hour of in-person teaching. Now, as I stare down the barrel of online learning for the rest of my undergraduate career, it begs the question: Why pay rent when I could’ve been home the whole time? Students are confused about what to do now and next year. It appears the university is taking a leaf out of Boris’ book and doing a complete U-turn, and students feel betrayed and upset.
The pandemic is worse now than last year, and yet the uni has decided we do not need a no detriment policy
We still are being told there will be no no detriment policy in place. I am sick and tired of the circumstances in March being treated as worse than those today. Not only is the crisis itself worse, but as a student body, we have endured almost a year of disrupted learning and limited to no access to campus and support.
We have missed a whole term of university life, which includes lectures, society activities and social events. Plus, there is a wider range of differential experiences due to more students choosing to be in Southampton compared to the first lockdown.
Alex*, an archaeology student, feels ignored and as if the university hasn’t “listened at all”. Despite the university continually reminding us they want to give us the support we need, it doesn’t make sense. If they can see we need special considerations why are they refusing to implement no detriment?
Chloe, a final year Education and Psychology student, said students are again expected to “adjust to online learning” which is difficult and stressful.
This was echoed by Laure, a ship science student, who said it will be difficult to be “motivated and work efficiently” and finds the lack of social interaction and pre-recorded lectures harder to engage with.
Sam*, a final year textiles student, spoke of the disregard of creative subject students who have no access to studios to produce projects which completely rely on the use of machinery and material they have been cut off from. They are being prevented from completing work whilst other degrees are deemed important enough for in-person teaching.
It may be impossible to represent every single one of us and give everyone everything we need, but it feels like right now, no one is getting anything remotely close to what they want or deserve. We won’t shut up about this. We will bring it up again and again until universities acknowledge and care about their students and what we have to say. We deserve better as a student body. The situation now is worse and we deserve to receive at least the same policies of compensation and reassurance in place last year.
The Soton Tab approached the university for comment. A university spokesperson said: “We understand that the current limit in face to face teaching on campus is challenging, and will continue to support students as best we can through this period. We will keep following the Government’s instructions and guidance in all our decisions and remain committed to delivering high-quality education and student support online.
“We have learned a lot since the first lockdown in March, and have designed our teaching and our assessment for this academic year with awareness of the impact of the pandemic uppermost in our minds. Circumstances continue to be challenging for both students and staff, of course, but for this year we have been able to plan with an understanding of those challenges, which means that we hope to avoid taking any disruptive emergency-measures.
“As a result, we, like other Russell Group universities, do not plan to operate a ‘No Detriment’ policy for this academic year. However, all students graduating this year – or next year for Integrated Masters students – will have the ‘No Detriment’ position of the 2019-20 academic year applied to that year of study when it comes to calculating their degree outcome.”