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The ‘new normal’, and how student life has been compromised

Written by Coronavirus, News, On Campus

Newcastle students claim they are not getting the service they paid for from the city’s main university, as the institution gears to reopen this month. 

Returning students have already missed out on months of face-to-face teaching due to COVID-19, and now face a reduced choice of modules and fewer learning resources for the forthcoming academic year.

“I’ve been looking forward to uni for years, and now I’m here it’s nothing like it should be”

Ellie Boswell, first year English and Classics student

It has led to calls for the university to refund some of its students who feel like they are not getting the support and quality of teaching they were promised.

“I’ve been looking forward to uni for years, and now I’m here it’s nothing like it should be”, says Ellie Boswell.

Online learning

A recent NUS Students and Coronavirus survey showed nearly half of students across the UK were not satisfied with the quality of online learning their institution provided last term.

One second year Geography student at Newcastle University is unhappy with the compromised education she has received. 

“This is not the course I signed up for”

“During the first lockdown lecturers often just uploaded recordings of lectures from previous years”. 

“Obviously recycled, outdated lectures provide a substandard learning experience. This is not the course I signed up for”.

She also explains that the move to online lectures closely followed the University College Union strikes, means that many returning students have not experienced face to face teaching since February.

When asked about the quality of online teaching, a University spokesperson explains “Where possible, our academic colleagues have demonstrated pedagogic innovation in seeking to retain the learning objectives.”

However, students continue to express their frustration with online learning.

Image: Wikipedia

As far as I am aware I have no contact hours at all on my course. I’m really unsure what I’m paying the full nine grand for,” first year student, Ellie Boswell, tells the Courier

Resource access issues

Students are also faced with reduced capacity libraries in the new term. Due to the A-Level exams fiasco, limited library space is coming at a time when universities face an unexpectedly large student intake.

“We are trialling the use of a booking system to ensure fair access to study spaces in high-demand areas such as our library buildings,” says a Newcastle University spokesperson. 

However, this will often mean students have to study from home.

“I am honestly dreading the day I’m going to have to start studying and raising in halls, it’s loud pretty much 24/7,” Ellie Boswell tells the Courier.

Indeed, three in four students are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on their final qualification, according to an NUS Survey.

Online access to library books also poses an issue. 

One returning student says that over lockdown he could not access the key reading for an essay worth 50% of his module grade. 

“I don’t know how I was expected to write an intelligent essay when I couldn’t even read the key materials to start with. It’s a joke”.

In response, a Newcastle University librarian informs the Courier that “between mid-March-end July we purchased more than 70,000 new e-books to support student studies from home”. However, it is not economically viable to purchase books when the publisher only offers single user access.

Whilst the pandemic has prompted gyms to freeze customer contracts and for holiday bookings to be refunded, no such compensation has been offered to Newcastle University students.

An email to students from the University stated: “Please note the tuition fee for your programme will be unchanged regardless of where and how you chose to study with us.”

One current student says said she would like to see the University be more open to the idea of compensation for students.

“The lack of discourse surrounding compensation for students is disconcerting. The relationship between students and Universities should hold the same weight as a typical customer-business relationship.”

Featured Image: Ella McCaffrey

Last modified: 7th October 2020

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