St Andrews has failed its students through the pandemic

The consequences of the university not planning ahead in light of the Covid-19 pandemic

After promising in-person teaching in June, leading students across the world to book their journeys to return in September, pay their hefty accommodation deposits, and secure student loans or employment to finance the upcoming year, the University hit students with a bombshell on Monday: all classes, with the exception of medicine and some labs, will be online for at least the next month, with no guarantee of one’s classes being online until week 7.  On the surface, student outrage with this announcement may seem unwarranted: we are in the middle of a global pandemic, and as secondary schools see local outbreaks after their reopening last month, along with local lockdowns in Aberdeen and Glasgow, many fear St Andrews could be next. Likewise, with only a maximum of three households being able to meet indoors in Scotland, in-person classes would essentially only include one lecturer and two students, meaning an online approach at this time is the most practical option.

That being said, the timing and justifications of the announcement lead students and parents to wonder why the University could not reveal this information until after many students had already arrived to our small Fife coastal town. With many top universities across the UK declaring their plans for online study months ago, St Andrews does not appear to have any unique excuses for why students were not told until this week.  The day of the announcement, Monday 31 August, was one week into international quarantine in halls and the first day in which all students could move into their halls of residence. Students have also begun to pay their tuition and accommodation fees and are either already in St Andrews or are in the process to move.  Furthermore, the justifications given for the delay in the news do not explain the sudden change in tone that meant, after a summer believing some classes would be in-person, they are almost all now online. Additionally, those issues posed as barriers to in-person study appear to have been avoidable with better planning.

On Friday 19 June, Principal Sally Mapstone proudly announced that the University would be adopting “dual-mode delivery”, which she stated would be “a blend of traditional, in-person classes, pre-recorded content and live, interactive online provision,” with all larger classes online and in-person classes taking place under physical distancing guidelines. With no further communication about the issue throughout the summer, students had no reason to believe that classes would be in-person: the University insisted that all its students, minus those with travel or health restrictions, return to town, and Scotland appeared to be fighting the virus well, particularly by imposing local lockdowns rather than reintroducing national restrictions.  Therefore, the Principal’s announcement on Monday that the University would instead be pursuing a “phased return to in-person teaching” shocked its community, and left many with more questions than answers.

Photo: University of St Andrews

Within the email, Principal Mapstone notes that the decision came after “very careful consideration over the past 48 hours,” yet no major news in Scotland or Fife had been reported in that timeframe.  Later on, she states that “it has become apparent in the past few days that the number of students who will arrive to study with us in St Andrews is likely to be greater than anyone had forecast,” citing the August crisis in the calculation of A-Level and Higher results.  As a student who received instructions about how to study online, my central message to outsiders of our University is clear: this could have been avoided. 

Students were able to signal a request to study online from 21 July, yet the two main criteria for eligibility were, “you expect to be unable to travel to St Andrews by 14 September,” or travel restrictions, and “you expect to be in or near St Andrews by 14 September, but unable to engage in in-person learning”, implying health restrictions such as being high-risk. Other criteria included inability to obtain a visa, financial reasons related to COVID-19, and caring responsibilities. Most notably, any concerns for mental health, preferring to stay at home rather than travel thousands of miles during a pandemic, and general anxiety surrounding the novel coronavirus are not listed in the eligibility to study online. Even more poignant, the University specifically states in eligibility guidelines, “Studying online is not an automatic right for students.”  

This system meant that only exceptional cases would be accepted for online study, yet the University appeared dumbfounded on Monday that 9000 undergraduates and postgraduates plan to be in St Andrews during first semester. I believe I speak for many students when I say: Principal Mapstone, this was not our choice. Many of us would have stayed at home, saving a particularly vulnerable, elderly town from a possible COVID-19 outbreak, had we been given the option. Accommodation in St Andrews is extortionately expensive, all society events are online, and we are now all away from the comfort of our homes and families with only minimal in-person support from our friends due to physical distancing guidelines.  If the University had freely allowed its students to study online, those who consciously decided to return could have benefitted from in-person teaching, study spaces, and other amenities that the town offers, while students who would have decided to remain online could have done so from the comfort of their own homes, with the support of their family and free from anxiety of supporting themselves during a global pandemic.

Source: MaxPixel

Principal Mapstone suggests that the main advantage of students being in St Andrews now is that they can be present for when in-person teaching begins and have access to libraries and wifi, but these advantages do not justify being present in St Andrews, particularly in the first seven weeks when there is no guarantee of in-person teaching or events. Likewise, the Principal’s suggestion that that students are in “ideal conditions” for the university experience by being in St Andrews dismisses the current Scottish guidelines, mental health concerns, and the essential closure of an in-person Students’ Association. As an example, let’s consider the current situation for first-years. Many freshers have travelled hundreds to thousands of miles away from home just to be present in St Andrews. For many, their experience has begun with an isolating two-week quarantine in halls, and for those students accepted conditionally, over a hundred were left without accommodation, forced to commute from Dundee. Then, once they find accommodation and are out of quarantine, they are still lacking the opportunity to benefit fully from societies and opportunities to meet friends, as all Students’ Association events are online for the foreseeable future, including outdoor and socially distanced ones. 

This means that the University has taken first-years away from the support networks of their friends and families to what is colloquially described as a Bubble and without any in-person opportunities, essentially a confinement to Microsoft Teams and their small hall-of-residence bedroom. It’s a recipe for disaster, particularly for student mental health.  As a student, I am quite frankly fed up with the University’s handling of our education and university experience throughout the pandemic, which has most recently cost its students thousands of pounds in accommodation, flights, and preparations for in-person study. If the University is unable to host in-person teaching throughout the semester or year due to government guidelines, rest assured I will be grateful that students and faculty are not being put in unsafe conditions just to study in-person and will find relief that we can continue to study online. However, by delaying this announcement until the day of halls of residence move-in, and one week before the first week begins, the University has failed its students, and the administration should take responsibility. 

Source: University of St Andrews

 

Comments

comments

83 thoughts on “St Andrews has failed its students through the pandemic

  1. After study a few of the blog posts on your website now, and I truly like your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark website list and will be checking back soon. Pls check out my web site as well and let me know what you think.

  2. I have recently started a website, the info you provide on this website has helped me greatly. Thanks for all of your time & work. “The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” by Edith Sodergran.

  3. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this website. It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very difficult to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance. I must say you have done a great job with this. In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Firefox. Exceptional Blog!

  4. There are definitely numerous particulars like that to take into consideration. That is a nice level to deliver up. I offer the thoughts above as common inspiration but clearly there are questions like the one you carry up the place an important thing shall be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged round things like that, however I am certain that your job is clearly identified as a good game. Both boys and girls really feel the affect of only a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  5. I’m very happy to read this. This is the kind of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that is at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.

  6. I got what you mean , thankyou for putting up.Woh I am lucky to find this website through google. “Wisdom doesn’t necessarily come with age. Sometimes age just shows up by itself.” by Woodrow Wilson.

  7. You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation however I to find this topic to be really something which I think I might never understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely extensive for me. I’m having a look forward in your next publish, I¦ll try to get the dangle of it!

  8. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high
    quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of space . Exploring
    in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this web site. Reading this
    information So i’m satisfied to exhibit that I’ve a very
    good uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed.
    I most certainly will make certain to do not disregard this site and provides it a look regularly.

    Feel free to surf to my blog :: eharmony special coupon code 2024

  9. Good V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all the tabs and related information ended up being truly easy to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it at all. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or anything, website theme . a tones way for your client to communicate. Excellent task..

  10. Thank you for sharing excellent informations. Your web site is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you’ve on this web site. It reveals how nicely you understand this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched everywhere and simply couldn’t come across. What a perfect website.

  11. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I’ll certainly return.

  12. Hello! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking back frequently!

  13. I’d have to examine with you here. Which is not one thing I usually do! I take pleasure in reading a post that may make folks think. Additionally, thanks for permitting me to comment!

  14. Thanks for another great article. Where else could anyone get that type of info in such a perfect way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m on the look for such information.

  15. You really make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I find this topic to be really one thing that I feel I might never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely wide for me. I’m taking a look forward to your subsequent post, I?¦ll attempt to get the dangle of it!

  16. I’ve recently started a site, the information you offer on this website has helped me tremendously. Thank you for all of your time & work. “Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown proposed as things forgot.” by Alexander Pope.

  17. Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the images on this blog loading? I’m trying to figure out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.

  18. Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a little bit, but instead of that, this is fantastic blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.

  19. I was very happy to seek out this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I positively enjoying every little little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to take a look at new stuff you blog post.

  20. I want to show thanks to the writer for rescuing me from this condition. Just after scouting through the online world and coming across concepts that were not productive, I was thinking my life was well over. Existing devoid of the approaches to the difficulties you have resolved all through the report is a serious case, as well as ones which could have negatively affected my entire career if I had not encountered your web page. Your primary competence and kindness in touching every item was important. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not encountered such a stuff like this. It’s possible to at this moment look ahead to my future. Thanks a lot very much for the high quality and result oriented help. I will not be reluctant to propose your web blog to any individual who will need guidance on this subject.

  21. I cling on to listening to the news update lecture about receiving boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the top site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i get some?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

THE STAND