Beginning to study at a university is always a new and unique experience, however in this academic year it won’t feel new only to beginners, but definitely to returning students as well. 2020/2021 uni year will be unlike any previous.
What about Freshers Week?
For the first time, freshers (first-year students) will not experience Freshers Week in its traditional form. Normally, it’s the induction week just before starting Year 1 of uni – a welcome period for all new students at British universities. It’s a week full of events, parties, fairs and chances to make friends as well as to get your head around campus. However, this year all Freshers Week events have been cancelled due to new pandemic guidelines from the government, which dictate that any social gatherings of more than 6 people are outlawed. Also, a 10pm curfew on pubs, restaurants and any public places (where students would gather) has been implemented. Instead, all Freshers Week events will be held virtually.
Moving around campus
Even walking around campus will feel different as most British universities are imposing one-way pedestrian systems both in uni buildings and around campus with many hand sanitizer stations. If possible, the same guideline is said to be enforced in uni halls, where students will also live in ‘bubbles’ of people from the same course to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19. This is also likely to feel odd to students because most of them come to uni with the hope of meeting a wide range of people from different courses.
There are universities, such as the University of Cambridge, that imposed no face-to-face classes until summer 2021. Most universities, however, decided to go for the ‘hybrid’ option of combining online classes with face-to-face classes, such as the University of York, the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, Edinburgh University and many more. In such a case, all lectures will be held online, either streamed live or pre-recorded, while seminars/tutorials will be able to take place at uni buildings as long as they meet government pandemic guidelines and social distancing.
COVID-19 tests among students
A lot of universities, such as the University of Exeter, have announced they will be offering COVID-19 tests for students. Universities will team up and work with tests providers to ensure that students can have a free and accessible way to check their health whenever they feel like it.
What about international students?
It’s safe to say that nobody is surprised by the fact that 2020/2021 academic year overall in the UK will welcome a much smaller amount of students than any previous years. Due to a lot of uncertainties and general anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, British students decided either not to apply to uni this year or to apply and defer their start of uni for a year. However, the situation is even worse for international students, especially the ones from the EU as for them Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic overlap with each other. Brexit for EU students coming to the UK, for example Polish students, means that from 2021/2022 on there will be no tuition fee loans and the tuition fees will be much higher. 2020/2021 is the last academic year when EU students can come to the UK with the option of getting a tuition fee loan, unfortunately pandemic stopped a lot of students from using their last opportunity. For a lot of EU students soon it will be much harder financially to move to the UK for university, which could be helped if governments or banks of EU countries, like Poland, initiated some fundings or scholarships to support students aspiring to study in the UK.