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  • Alex Bikard

Returning to Uni this September

UK universities as a whole did a plethora of faux pas since the beginning of the pandemic which has left students frustrated and angry to say the least. The timeline is pretty bleak: students had to patiently spend the second semester of the 2019/2020 year, waiting for universities to find solutions for online teaching. Then come September, they were told to come back to uni only to be informed a week before classes started that teaching would be 100% online. They were villainised for spreading the virus, sometimes even locked up in their dorms and essentially robbed of the years that were supposed to be the ‘best of their lives’. While everyone took a hit, it often seemed like uni students were an afterthought and left struggling in order to stimulate the economy.

If you’re one of the many students that are starting, or returning to uni this September, you probably have a myriad of different questions that flood your mind with angst. While it might seem like the UK is out of the pandemic, with clubs and concerts running at full speed, the current infection numbers might say otherwise. As a result, while many are enjoying a newfound freedom, others are wondering what the future holds.

The buzzword for the upcoming year is ‘blended-learning’. And while we love to expand our vocabulary, universities seemed to have forgotten to give it a proper definition. The idea of blended or flexible learning seems to differ from uni to uni and from department to department. In some universities, it might mean that you will study in person two or three days a week, in others it might be that while tutorials will happen in person, lectures will remain fully online.

All in all, it seems that, unless you are studying a practical course that requires in person activities you will most likely have a significant amount of your classes through either pre-recorded videos or simultaneous online learning. However, universities try to reassure their students by stating that ‘flexible learning’ will be very different from the emergency move to online learning that students experienced until now. They guarantee that they will augment in-person activities as much as legally possible and that students will be given high quality online learning when in-person learning is not safe.

Several universities have also released statements following student protests and petitions that asked for a lowering of university fees stating that the shift to blended learning is in no way driven by financial motivations as they have “spent additional money and recruited more staff to support [their] future blended learning approach” (University of Manchester).

At the end of the day, we currently have very little, if any information of what is truly going to happen come September. Although Covid-19 cases are rising again in the UK, it does seem that with the current vaccination program, the virus is much less deadly than it used to. Perhaps, like our politicians, we can remain ‘cautiously optimistic’ and hope that life will be at least better than it was in the past academic year.

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