Opinion

Government student evacuation – calculated risk or recipe for disaster?

Written by Meg Duncombe

On the 11th November, the Government announced to the nation that University students would have a six day window, at the beginning of December, to return home for the Christmas holidays. This is going to be enforced in order to stagger the movement of students in order to ‘minimise the risk of them spreading Covid-19.’

However, students have spoken to the Leicester Student Magazine expressing their frustration and general confusion regarding the situation, due to the lack of reassurance and advice from the University with the start of the scheme fast-approaching.

What comes to mind when discussing this with other students is if this is fair on the students and their University experience?

Ever since the beginning of the academic year, students have been criticised for contributing to and causing the dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases across the nation and as a result, they have been forced to stay within their accommodations and work remotely, whilst paying the full tuition fees required.

The announcement of the scheme means even more disruption. Students will now have to complete all of their studies remotely, with little support from the University, whilst also being forced to return home earlier than expected to save Christmas for others.

Is this fair? No.

Being allowed and permitted to work on campus means that students get access to essential resources and technology, which many will not be able to access from home. The government’s, as well as Universities, ‘advice’ does not specify how they are going to help students if they fall behind on workload and studies once returning home.

If students have poor internet connections or more responsibilities at home, how will they be able to attend online seminars or lectures? How will missing online sessions impact their studies? Will they be given extensions for their deadlines which are in January? Can they apply for Mitigating Circumstances if they cannot access essential resources from home?

Does the responsibility fall upon Universities to provide a partial refund if students discover that their education has been compromised because of the government’s plans on evacuating students, limiting their contact time as well as accessing resources available to them whilst they are home? What is going to happen?

Not all students were happy with this announcement.

“Since the announcement that this scheme was going to be put in place, students have been given very little information, therefore the University needs to provide further information in order to provide reassurance for all students,” said Samuel John, a final year student.

More clarity is required as the window for the student evacuation draws nearer, and many students are left wondering if their studies will be impacted due to the prioritisation of Christmas.

Will they be forced to go home, only to find out they cannot continue their studies to their full potential? Students require and should be demanding more information.

Additionally, the introduction of the scheme is going to cause chaos on public transport and the roads over this six day window. Students that will have to take the train home may cause further issues and potentially an increase in cases—surely cramming students and the general public together on a train, for the sake of a few weeks, is not the solution? Will this not cause a spike in cases due to the hundreds of thousands of students travelling within the space of a week? Whereas normally, different Universities end of terms are not the same anyway so every student would not be moving within the same week.

Nevertheless, in order to provide reassurance for any students that are concerned, the little information and advice about the return process and what to do can has been provided by the University of Leicester and can be accessed here.


Meg Duncombe is a postgraduate History student at the University of Leicester. You can find her on Instagram here: @megduncombe


Featured image by Anna Dziubinska, from Unsplash.