The year for Newcastle University in review

Gemma Powell looks back at the many trials and tribulations in 2020

Gemma Powell
3rd December 2020
Image: Joe Molander
To say that 2020 is not the best time to be a student would be an understatement. Newcastle University has failed to live up to students’ expectations, and has damaged its reputation as one of the best universities in the country.

February turned the air a bit sour with a staff strike spanning over a month of term time. Of course, the strikers are not to blame for wanting a minimum living wage and a reasonable pension. However, the unwillingness of the University to come to an arrangement placed doubts in my mind about students being its main priority.

In March, the whole world changed overnight. No-one expected the University to have back up plans for an unexpected global pandemic. That said, the University chose to remain open on Monday 16, whilst Northumbria announced its closure on the Friday. Newcastle's decision reduced the time window for students to travel to a place of safety, before a well-anticipated lockdown was announced.

In April and May, there was considerable variation in teaching across modules and courses. Information about exams and module changes came quite late, causing stress for students, many of whom had marks counting towards their degree classification. The safety net, campaigned for by students, was the only thing that eased anxieties.

August and September just got worse. A lack of information about a return to university, alongside a cyber attack that compromised student data, caused more confusion and panic.

October and November saw the advent of a local lockdown, a long-lived tier system and a national lockdown. Many students were left on edge about changes in teaching styles, and the safety of the University with such high virus rates among students. It also enraged those who had moved back to expensive university accommodation, when they could have had the same experience at home.

Going into December, questions about Christmas and then January travel are being raised. The fault for this lies at the government’s feet and not the University’s. However, a very reassuring email was sent to all students that present in-person teaching (PiP) will either be "expected" or "required". This comes at a time when there are 648 coronavirus deaths a day nationally (as of 2 December).

Featured Image: Joe Molander

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