Reported by tes – the news we share raises awareness of equality issues being reported in the media.
Like all sectors, the education sector is facing unprecedented challenges in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak. For students, there has never been more uncertainty over their finances, current and future employability and ability to achieve the results they aspire to.
Some students have lost degree shows and final performances. Many have lost out on the joy of physically handing in their last piece of coursework with classmates and friends – and the now-traditional hand-in picture that comes with that. And, for a great many, they have lost out on attending their graduation and celebrating the academic achievements with the people that matter most to them.
These are once-in-a-lifetime experiences that mark important moments of success as students make their way through education and towards a brighter future. But instead of enjoying these milestones, they are deeply concerned about the uncertainty that looms before them.
Projecting a recession
It is hard to avoid the predictions about the overall impact of Covid-19 on the economy, especially those projecting a recession worse than that of the 2008 global financial crisis. Unfortunately, the effects of this pandemic on students are not just a future concern – they are being felt in the here and now.
This is why NUS Scotland launched our Student Safety Net campaign, calling on governments across the UK to ensure that students do not fall through the cracks, that students and their colleges have the support they need throughout this pandemic and that high-quality support will continue in the longer term.
With college students being asked to complete examinations and coursework at home, the difficulty that comes with a lack of access to the necessary equipment required to engage with their studies is more apparent now than ever before. While we recognise the steps taken by colleges to enable students to learn remotely, I’ve been shocked to hear of many students having nothing but their mobile phone to write their coursework on, sometimes running up high data costs because they don’t have regular access to broadband in their home.
That’s why we are delighted to get clarification from the Scottish government that the recently announced increased discretionary funding, which NUS Scotland fought for, can be used by students to purchase the equipment they need. While we welcome this step and others taken, there must be a wider acknowledgement of the long-term impacts this disruption will have on our students.
Students are studying in circumstances that, at the best of times, would qualify for mitigating circumstances, given the impact this upheaval will have on students’ wellbeing and attainment. For courses with practical aspects, including most apprenticeships, our students are affected even more acutely. To ensure students are not left with qualifications that do not reflect their ability, we are calling on all institutions to adopt a no-detriment policy, ensuring that no student’s academic outcomes are unduly affected by this period of disruption. We welcome steps taken by colleges and staff so far to ensure just that.
We want institutions to acknowledge that this is more than just a practical or logistical problem for them to overcome in the short term – it’s a financial, wellbeing and employment problem, the effects of which will be felt for years to come. We want institutions to act with empathy and compassion, to listen to students without judgement and to fully support them in all their financial and educational needs.
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