NOTTINGHAM'S UNIVERSITIES RESPOND TO CLAIMS THAT MANY STUDENTS WILL LEAVE THE CITY DURING LOCKDOWN
 

Gurjeet Nanrah, Nottingham Post Community Reporter, writing on Friday 6 November 2020, reported on the response from Nottingham's universities to claims that many students will leave the city they are studying during the lockdown and that it is 'unrealistic' to expect them to stay. ...

Nottingham universities respond to claims it's 'unrealistic' students will stay in accommodation over lockdown

One union has said students were sold a "lie" at the start of term

Nottingham's universities have responded to claims from two national unions that many students will leave the city they are studying in during the lockdown and it is "unrealistic" to expect them to stay.

As a national lockdown has come into force November 5, the National Union for Students (NUS) and the University and College Union (UCU) came together in calling for universities to allow students to vacate accommodation without continuing to pay rent and learn entirely remotely if they can.

Nottingham Trent University (NTU) and the University of Nottingham have both said they will look to continue face-to-face teaching where necessary in line with the latest Government guidance.

The NUS has said students will face mental health challenges if kept "trapped" in their accommodation.

Hilary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS vice president for higher education, said: "The expectation that students will remain in term time accommodation over lockdown is completely unrealistic.

"Many have already left, and we suspect more will continue to do so if halls become quieter and lonelier over the coming weeks. And they have every right to do so, with the rest of the population being able to move homes throughout lockdown the government has no place making such demands of students who it has already let down consistently throughout this pandemic.

"The least they can do is allow students to be with their support systems instead of keeping them trapped in halls and private accommodations without adequate mental health provision."

University and College Union (UCU) members at the University of Nottingham have today called on its vice-chancellor Professor Shearer West to move all non-essential activity online.

The call comes on the first day of a four week lockdown across England and as the university confirmed that in-person teaching would continue.

Wit the Covid infection rate in Nottingham remaining high, the union says that asking students and staff to travel to campus, often using public transport, and have social interactions on campus, at this height of infection puts people’s health at risk. 

Agnes Flues, UCU Branch Vice-President said: ‘We are calling on the University of Nottingham to reconsider its decision to continue with in-person teaching urgently, in order to protect the health of students, staff and the wider Nottingham community.

"Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shearer West should use her autonomy and move all non-essential teaching and other activity online as soon as possible."

In a joint letter, both NUS and UCU have called for:

  • An immediate move to online learning wherever possible 
  • Give students the right to leave, or stay, safely with investment in mental health support and wellbeing resources
  • Students should not face financial detriment for giving up accommodation, or choosing to defer or leave university.

A University of Nottingham spokesperson said: "The Government has emphasised that universities should remain open and students should remain at the term-time addresses during this period to prioritise their wellbeing and long-term futures. 

"The University will remain open and continue as planned with current research activities and our blended approach to teaching - in person where it is safe to do so, and otherwise online.

"Instances of Covid-19 remain low and declining with currently 86 active cases among students and 22 among staff. 

"None of our staff cases have resulted from face- to-face teaching, indicating that our classrooms are a safe environment for our University community.

“Feedback across our student community has been positive on the role that in person teaching has for their mental health and wellbeing."

A Nottingham Trent University spokesperson added: “The Government has been clear that universities should remain open and we will continue to provide our established blended approach of online and on-campus teaching and learning until the end of term.

“All NTU students are asked to continue to live at their term-time address to help limit the potential for further spread of Covid-19. We have also asked commuting students to try, where possible, to avoid peak travel times and wear face coverings.

“We continue to offer on-campus testing, including asymptomatic tests which identify cases earlier and faster than the national scheme. The number of cases amongst our students continues to decline rapidly and is currently low.”

The Government has said it will introduce a four-tiered approach to higher education across the UK, with Tier 4 consisting of the highest focus on online teaching but all four tiers include at least some face-to-face teaching.

NUS president Larissa Kennedy added: "The Government needs to give students some power and control over their lives again. They sold students a lie of a normal student experience in the summer, and dragged everyone back to campuses to get their rent money and then blamed them for a second wave. 

"This has got to stop, and it's causing a huge toll on students' mental health. Let students leave their halls, their rental contracts and their courses without financial detriment."

Nottingham universities respond to claims it's 'unrealistic' students will stay in accommodation over lockdown - Nottinghamshire Live