Welcome to one of the most stressful times of the year: move-in season for university students.

Up and down the United Kingdom young people have begun to pack up their entire lives into suitcases whilst parents yell ‘you have too much stuff!’ You can always tell which cars are heading to Universities because there’s a duvet in the back, siblings squished into one seat, and overwhelmed parents navigating the roads. I’m sure if you have attended a British University the word ‘Freshers’ brings memories to mind; some are weird and cringeworthy but altogether an unforgettable starting stone of your university experience. Freshers is the very first week of University – its the time when clubs are open every day and you find yourself in a random flat party introducing yourself to a million people. It’s also the time when first years acquaint themselves with their new University town and living alone for the first time. 

This year, however, things were a little bit different. With COVID-19 none of us were even sure if our universities were opening at all. Many universities decided early on to open up their accommodations to both new and returning students with extremely vague guidelines. 

While ‘Freshers’ has been cancelled this year, it hasn’t stopped people from flaunting the rules. Outbreaks throughout the country have been attributed to illegal house parties in university towns which have been broken up by the police and met with a £10,000 fine.

Given the unclear guidelines and an apathetic government, no one is surprised that there has been an increase in cases. However, to combat the spread some Universities, such as Glasgow University, have since locked down students. 

Students have now been told, after already moving away, that their lectures are entirely online and that there is a great possibility that they will not be able to go home for the winter break. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has referred to keeping these institutions going as the ‘Blitz spirit,’ or the idea that we should all ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ like people did during the Blitz bombing in World War II.

Johnson is attempting to evoke an antiquated and ignorant sentiment and apply it to a completely new situation.

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

 To put it in context: for my year I am paying around £6000. Unfortunately, having a Government that doesn’t care about its people will always put money first. This money has been taken from people who went from being the saviours of the British economy to the devils among us in under a month. During August, the government launched a new scheme to kick start the economy named ‘Eat Out to Help Out’. Each establishment had their prices cut up to 50% and the difference paid for by the Government. This meant that consumers were given a competitive price and businesses didn’t miss out. The scheme was aimed mainly at young people who had been in lockdown since March in order to repopulate towns and cities again. During August, the Government conveniently ignored COVID-19 and no restrictions were in place. The track and trace system was a box-ticking exercise in which not every member of your party had to ‘check-in’. 

Universities should have never been allowed to open. More importantly, students should have never been conned out of thousands of pounds to pay for their accommodation for universities to close after settling in.

It was only when the cases began to rise that the Government chose to act: by blaming young people. It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out. Even when cases began to rise the Government still refused to take action and close down the establishments. Instead, they dug their heads in the sand in hopes that it would pass, much like the first wave. However, we are now seeing another huge spike in cases with much of the North of England already in local lockdown.

While the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme ended in early September, the Government had already made as much money as they could at that point so it no longer mattered. The damage was already done, making young people the ultimate victims of this whole mess in more ways than one.

Even though the Government had the all of the necessary and important information, they were blinded by greed and didn’t warn against expensive student accommodation or advise students to study from home. Instead, they led with vague guidelines which no one understood.

It is unfair to scapegoat a group of people who, just a month ago, were encouraged to go out.

Currently, almost all University teaching is online, so there is no need for student accommodation, but the money which we have all paid will not be reimbursed because the Government refuses to mandate complete online learning.

One thing has become clear in this situation: in the government’s eyes, students and young people are the cash cows that will never stop milking. 

 

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Aafiyah Shaikh

By Aafiyah Shaikh

Digital Product Manager