British students and university vice-chancellors have accused the government of risking the mental health and wellbeing of young people by not giving a deadline of when students are to return to university campuses.
In a letter by the National Union of Students and the mental health charity, Student Minds, directed to the government, they ask for a decision to be determined and communicated for students’ in-person learning education immediately. In the letter, students seek “certainty” and assistance for their health and wellbeing, Erudera.com reports.
The move followed the government’s latest restriction changes which permit pubs and gyms to re-open. This decision has left students and vice-chancellors thinking the roadmap out of lockdown has entirely excluded universities.
The president of the advocacy organization, Universities UK, Julia Buckingham, has stated that students are being neglected by the government.
“We’re very concerned about how this is impacting their mental health and wellbeing. There is good evidence that their feelings of isolation and loneliness have increased. This is obviously contributing to their anxiety levels at this very tense time of year when everyone’s worried about exams. I feel desperately sorry for students right now,” president Buckingham asserted.
She also mentioned the financial difficulties students are facing due to the lack of part-time jobs, which supported the latter before the pandemic.
As per the roadmap out of lockdown, Buckingham highlights that the return to campuses was a priority of the government, although the recent silence on the matter makes the students feel “left behind” and “uncertain” about their future.
However, the government was expected to review whether students should be back at the universities by the end of the Easter holidays. Buckingham asks that the government decides on the matter as soon as possible, giving universities a week’s notice of the decision. Students, as well as staff, have to make arrangements in order to be ready for the classes.
“The longer we wait, the more challenging this is for everyone and the less opportunity there will be for students to get the support they need,” Buckingham stated.
A spokesperson from the Department of Education said that the government is committed to bringing students back to campuses in compliance with public health. The government is expected to comment on the matter by the end of the week.
President Buckingham further pledged for the government to consider and support student’s needs and wellbeing.
“They have responded to extraordinary challenges over the past 12 months, and I think they have been remarkable. I think the government owes it to them, now, to support them in the best way possible – and that is to allow them to come back to campus and get on with their learning,” President Buckingham said.
Universities UK made similar requests months ago after a significant increase in students’ mental implications has been reported since March 2020. According to a study conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in partnership with Youthsight, more than 58 percent of British students have claimed their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic has started.