Many students returned to their non term-time addresses for Christmas during December’s safe travel window but have found themselves unable to return to university due to the new lockdown imposed by the government on 4th January. Currently the date set for a review of lockdown is 22nd February, and this is the earliest possible time teaching could return to face-to-face.
There has been outrage on social media about the impact of this lockdown on university students, both in terms of study and financially. Notably university students were not mentioned in the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement, with information only released afterwards encouraging students to stay at their current location.
Royal Holloway student, Finley Dyer tweeted “#nationallockdown Now that we’re in Tier 4 lockdown and most uni students are staying at home, shouldn’t we get a refund for our accommodation?” on 4th January, gaining over 700 likes. Approached for further comment, Finn told Orbital: “A lot of students, including myself rely on getting a part-time job to keep afloat, which is hard to get and just as hard to keep at the moment. In addition, with this being an incredibly stressful and frustrating time right now for many students, I felt it was necessary to step up and take a call for action as a current first year student.”
In a move which Principal Paul Layzell said was “the right thing to do”, refunds were offered to students unable to return to on-campus accommodation. This enabled students to have their accommodation fees removed for the period 4th January-22nd February, with the latter date open to review if lockdown continues and students remain unable to return to university. Given the plan to return to face-to-face teaching, there is currently no option to cancel accommodation contracts.
Students that have not returned to campus but are unable to study in their current location may return, but must then follow the ‘stay at home’ guidance and will not be eligible for accommodation refunds.
Paul Layzell and SU President Kate Roberts have also written an open letter to local landlords, encouraging them to be flexible with contracts: “we are asking you to join with us in supporting our students in this unprecedented situation by also showing as much flexibility as you are able with residential contracts for the remainder of the lockdown period.” You can read the full letter here.
Additionally, the Students’ Union is in discussions with the University regarding the continued impact on student’s academic work and the possibility of a policy to ensure students are not disadvantaged because of this. There is no further information on this at present but updates will be given as soon as possible.
What do you think about this latest update? Let us know on our social media or by email.