STUDENTS TO GET ACADEMIC & "SOCIALISATION" CATCH-UP SUPPORT
 

Will Hazel, Education Correspondent of iNews, writing on Tuesday 24 August 2021, reported that students going to universities this autumn will get support to fill gaps in learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic and also support to help them 'get to grips with the freedom of university life' following 18 months of Covid-19 restrictions.

University students to get catch-up help and ‘socialisation’ support to compensate for months of Covid curbs

Students were only assessed in their A-Levels this summer on the topics they had covered after many schools were unable to complete the full curriculum during the pandemic

Students going to universities this autumn are to receive catch-up support to fill gaps in their learning caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Alongside academic catch-up, universities believe they will need to address “socialisation issues” to help students get to grips with the freedom of university life after nearly a year and a half of Covid restrictions. 

Last month, the London School of Economics and the University of Exeter estimated that pupils lost nearly a third of their learning time between March 2020 and April 2021 because of school closures and coronavirus disruption.

With many schools unable to complete the full A-level curriculum, students were only assessed this summer on the topics they had covered. 

To make sure students will be able to complete their undergraduate courses, universities are therefore having to step in to bridge the learning gaps. 

The elite Russell Group of universities has teamed up with the Open University to launch ‘Jumpstart University’ – a free resource designed to help students settle into university. 

The platform – which is open to students in all universities – has subject-specific courses, and modules on study skills, student life, wellbeing and mental health.

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, the chair of the Russell Group and vice-chancellor of Manchester University, said: “These additional resources will complement other support that our universities have put in place for new students and will be freely available to students at all universities, to tap into as much or as little as they feel is appropriate for them.” 

An official working for a university in the South of England told i that they were expecting to deliver “remedial work with a lot of students”.

“They cannot help but have had some of their intellectual and other development hindered by being at home for two years at such a critical part of their education. 

“We certainly noticed at the start of last year, some students had problems typical entrants didn’t have.” 

With the 2021 cohort experiencing disruption over two school years, catch-up would have to be provided “across the whole year” to make up for the amount of learning lost, they said. 

The source said universities would have to address “socialisation issues” as well as academic study. “If you’re locked away from age 16 to 18… if we’re back to normal by October, you’ve gone from a period of being locked down for almost two years, to something like as much freedom as you’re ever likely to get.”  

Students will need extra support this autumn to adapt to the freedom of university life, experts believe.

Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think-tank, told i: “Going up to university even in normal times is stressful.  

“It’s a breakpoint in every respect – you’ve got financial independence for the first time, you’re living away from home, you’re doing truly independent learning, so the stresses are huge and there will be a significant minority of students who do need more support than normal.” 

With student unions planning traditional freshers’ week activities for the first time since 2019, there are also concerns some students may over-indulge after two school years in which socialising was strictly limited. 

“We saw even last year during the lockdown, massive parties and people breaking all the rules and letting their hair down,” Mr Hillman said. 

He added that the onus would be on universities to provide additional support to help students navigate their new freedom. 

“If a university has expanded – as many will have done because of the higher A-level results – that does mean very significantly higher levels of fee income.  

“It’s important that a significant chunk of that fee income goes on making sure that the support services are there – whether it’s welfare services, academic catch-up support or literally social events that help build students’ networks.”

Universities would also need “constant vigilance” to look out for vulnerable students. 

Mr Hillman said independence would be positive for most students. 

“Young people are more resilient than the whole snowflake agenda implies,” he said. “They’re desperate to get away from home and get on with the next stage in their life. 

“It’s a great force for good that these people will hopefully transition to adulthood in a relatively safe, secure environment – but the question is how can we make it even safer and more secure for a cohort which have been so badly affected by the crisis.”

University students to get catch-up help and 'socialisation' support to compensate for months of Covid curbs