Opinion | The University’s handling of the pandemic has left students depleted and disappointed


By Alex Berry, Third Year, Ancient History

It is a widely felt and frequently expressed view that most students in the UK are at present, struggling. Many of us are feeling unmotivated about our degrees, desperate to socialise properly (we mean a night out – not another walk on the Downs) and somewhat let down by our institution.

For a university that is so vocal on student’s mental health and wellbeing, many students believe that the way the University of Bristol has handled these ‘unprecedented times’ has been nothing short of appalling.

Now let’s not be naïve, we are fully aware that many of the measures implemented by the university this past year have been beyond their control. We are living through a public health crisis, and there is no denying that we were caught off-guard by this pandemic. These are unusual times, for which our institution was clearly ill-prepared.

However, the issue arises in the communication (or lack-there-of) between us and the university. It seems as though for the last six months there has been nothing but a slow trickle of formality emails, aggressive warnings about rule-breaking and sanctions, and the insensitive delivery of disappointing news.

This of course, does not include the emails of some individuals, particularly those faculty members who have been kind, understanding and generous.

Let us cast our minds back to August 2020 when many students were left stressed, deflated and anxious about the final year of their degree. Things only got worse after my school axed four of our available units. This was particularly disheartening given the nature of the remaining list.

For the last six months there has been nothing but a slow trickle of formality emails

Many students including myself, were forced to change the options they had chosen (several months prior) and try and awkwardly excite themselves about modules they had originally and purposefully rejected.

It’s clear the department had its reasons for doing so, and it’s not something that a petition or a few angry emails could solve - this was out of everyone’s hands. It was however the lack of empathy in the email and the suggestion that if you truly find one of the unavailable options that interesting, you should do it for you dissertation instead. For nine-thousand pounds, this is simply not good enough.

A more universally experienced annoyance among the student body, and a rightful cause for protests and petitions was the safety net saga. As to be expected, the University let us know that they fully supported the Russel Group’s position.

We waited patiently in anticipation to see what the golden mitigation packet would entail

This cold and robotic email, along with the little messages of bad news we receive every few months, feel like continuous punches in the face.

Nevertheless, we waited patiently in anticipation to see what the golden mitigation packet would entail. Needless to say, many of us were disappointed upon its release.

It’s true that what we ended up receiving was more generous than previous years, however, it doesn’t even come close to repaying the building financial costs, disappearing life experiences and draining mental health we are enduring. The best three years of our lives are being extinguished one email at a time.

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How many more “we understand this is a challenging time for all of us” emails will there be before people start to give up? That is, withdraw from their degree, spiral mentally, or facilitate the brewing protest against the system?

With the stress of assignments, the cold and dark weather and the severe lack of hope, it can only be a matter of time before this all comes to an ugly head.

Our desperate hope for a long hot summer of celebrations, relaxation and freedom, can only get us so far as we desperately hold on to the ounce of motivation and positivity we’ve got left. Every day comes with the fear of receiving another disappointing email and students have had enough.

Featured Image: Epigram / Lucy O'Neill

Do you think the Uni have handled the pandemic well? Let us know!