pixabay

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

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

  1. Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these Second Life websites and blogs

  2. Hey There. I discovered your weblog using msn. That
    is a really neatly written article. I will be sure to bookmark it and return to learn extra
    of your useful information. Thank you for the post.
    I will definitely return.

  3. Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve take note your stuff prior to and you’re just extremely
    fantastic. I actually like what you have received here, certainly like what you’re saying and the best way through which you say it.
    You make it enjoyable and you continue to take care of to keep it
    smart. I can not wait to read much more from you. This is really a tremendous web
    site.

  4. Hi there would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m looking to start my own blog soon but I’m having a difficult time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique.
    P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  5. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up.
    Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just
    wanted to say fantastic blog!

  6. I am extremely impressed along with your writing abilities and also with the format for your blog.
    Is this a paid subject matter or did you customize it your self?
    Anyway keep up the excellent high quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a nice weblog like this one today..

    Here is my blog: free download sky1388

  7. Great work! This is the type of information that are supposed
    to be shared across the net. Disgrace on the
    search engines for not positioning this submit higher!
    Come on over and consult with my web site . Thank you =)

    Also visit my site … sky777 (918kiss-m.com)

  8. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article writer for your site.
    You have some really good articles and I feel I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d really like to write some articles for
    your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.
    Please shoot me an e-mail if interested. Regards!

    Also visit my web-site live22 website

  9. Hi! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?

    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems
    finding one? Thanks a lot!

    Also visit my site – id test wm casino, 918kiss-m.com,

  10. When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a
    comment is added I get 4 emails with the same comment.
    There has to be a way you can remove me from that service?
    Cheers!

    Also visit my blog – 918kaya download

  11. Please let me know if you’re looking for a writer for your weblog.

    You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset.
    If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely
    love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please blast me an email if interested.

    Thank you!

    Have a look at my web site; epicwin pc

  12. I have read so many posts regarding the blogger lovers however
    this post is in fact a good article, keep it up.

    Feel free to surf to my web blog :: king855apk android (Delila)

  13. The first technique that must be used to spin the wheel is Check the features available in the game genre first to see if there is a Reespin Bonus Game Wild feature in that genre or not, if you enter and find that there are 3 or more symbols, it is considered that the game genre is easily accessible.

  14. Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a video game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life authors and blogs

Leave a Reply

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

The Stand