Opinion | The University must compensate students for time lost due to strike action and COVID-19

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By, Khalid Mustafa Mish Al-Roubaie, First year, History

My flights this Easter have been cancelled and the airline company have informed me that I’ll be receiving a full refund. The gyms have closed down and my membership has been frozen for as long as I’m unable to use it. But worst all, all university buildings have shut down and I’m still expected to pay for services that I can’t use.

As a first-year student, it’s difficult to describe the disappointment of having missed half of this term’s teaching due to strike action and then having the rest of it cancelled due to the Corona virus outbreak. In addition to all of the teaching time lost, we’re now missing out on the social experiences which, for many students, define their first year.

From the looks of it, many of us may not return to university for the rest of the year now | Epigram / Cameron Scheijde 

From the looks of it, many of us may not return to university for the rest of the year now, but given that I’ve already spent most of this term sitting around wondering what to do it feels like my first year already finished months ago when I left for the Christmas holidays.

Being a naïve fresher, I firmly believed in the power of the strikes and supported the right of my lecturers to do so. Whilst I still do sympathise with their struggles, it’s difficult to continue supporting the strikes when they appear to have no effect on their intended target and seemingly only harm my studies and my lecturer’s pay check.

The university has responded to the disruption by constantly maintaining that they’re still open due to the plethora of services they offer outside of teaching, yet now with even our beloved and esteemed Arts and Social Sciences Library closing, one has to wonder how long they’ll be able to maintain this position.

The university has responded to the disruption by constantly maintaining that they’re still open due to the plethora of services they offer outside of teaching | Epigram / Ellie Brown

Given that all of this has been my first experience of university life, it’s perhaps not difficult to see why I and so many others feel like we’ve been cheated out of a year. And I have difficulty shaking the feeling that students here are being increasingly abandoned by the university. The lack of any real compensation for students missing out on most of the year seems to epitomise this.

We’ve have learnt that the university plans to continue teaching after the Easter holiday through online classes. Whilst it’s nice to know that they haven’t completely given up on teaching yet, I’m not convinced that these online classes will be enough to make up for all the time that’s already been lost this year. And like a previous contributor to Epigram highlighted, I’m sceptical as to how accessible these online resources will be to international students or those with poor access to the internet.

But if the university is going to be treating itself like a for-profit business, then they should hold themselves accountable to those standards and put their money where their mouth is.

Seeing how the university responded to both their mental health and housing crises, it would be naïve for us to paint this image of a benevolent university which prioritises students’ needs above their own financial considerations. Indeed, some may even argue that as a government funded institution the university shouldn’t be held to the same standards of compensation as private airline companies or gyms. But if the university is going to be treating itself like a for-profit business, then they should hold themselves accountable to those standards and put their money where their mouth is.

It’s been pointed out by many already that reimbursing students directly for lost teaching time is impractical as a form of compensation due to how tuition fees are paid for by SFE, and how little money each individual student would receive anyway. However, one has to wonder where all of that money is now given that it’s clearly not going to the lecturers and with most university services and buildings shutting down, it’s unlikely the money is being invested into any of those.

If we’re not going to receive any direct reimbursement for all of these disruptions, then the least that the university could do is show us that they’re actively committed to using the money in such a way that students feel like we’re being compensated for all we’ve missed out on this


Do you think that the University should refund students?

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