The return to student life on campus


By Marine Saint, Features Columnist and Subeditor

After the last academic year saw a largely online university experience, with students experiencing isolation and restrictions on campus facilities, Epigram reached out to the University and Bristol SU to see what plans are in place for this upcoming year. For both freshers starting their degrees in September and returning students, we are hopeful that university life can regain some normality whilst remaining safe on campus.

According to the University of Bristol, as much teaching as possible will be in-person and on campus, but the majority of courses can also be taken online. Lectures, seminars, and laboratories are planned to be in-person with the use of face masks continuing when indoors on campus, and slight restrictions when accessing certain learning spaces. As many students benefitted from the flexibility of many elements of online learning, numerous programmes will still be integrating the most effective virtual teaching tools, but this will vary depending on your course.

"as much teaching as possible will be in-person and on campus, but the majority of courses can also be taken online"

It is clear that University staff and SU officers have been dedicated to ensuring this year will be rewarding and supportive for students. When asked to comment on what we can expect, Professor Tansy Jessop, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education, said that ‘Staff have worked incredibly hard in partnership with the Students’ Union to balance the need for a good on-campus learning experience with keeping you and our community safe’. In addition to the educational side of university, Jessop indicated that the atmosphere ‘should be similar to pre-pandemic times, and reflect wider society, with all our facilities open’.

Clifton Suspension Bridge. Source: Unsplash/Nathan Riley

The social side of this year is arguably equally important to the student body for societies, events, and socialising on campus or in halls of residence. As Jessop stated, the fact that although most staff and students will be vaccinated in time for the return to studies is beneficial; ‘We need to remain vigilant and look after each other because the virus is still circulating… but I am hopeful that 2021/22 will see a return to some much-needed normality’.

The SU team are similarly optimistic about this year, especially with this year’s in-person Welcome Fair after last year’s event programme was entirely virtual. As mentioned by a Bristol Student Union Spokesperson, ‘This year’s Welcome Fair will take place over two days and will really highlight all the opportunities to get involved with this year!’ Moreover, in-person welcome events organised by the SU will be running between 10 September - 2 October, including club nights at the newly re-opened Anson Rooms within the University’s Richmond building on campus.

"We need to remain vigilant and look after each other because the virus is still circulating"

Maintaining their liaison between the student community and University staff, the Student Union intends to continue ‘to support students and voice any concerns to the university about the student experience’. This will be especially useful for those needing assistance if anxious about the return to an in-person experience, considering the impact of last year’s disrupted studies, or for help regarding accommodation. Given the recent news about university housing shortages for new undergraduates, the SU has emphasised that they have ‘already been working hard to make sure that students who have been housed in Bath can still get the most out of their time at Bristol.’

New starters and returning students alike can be reassured that teaching and life in Bristol will be looked after with all the measures in place and flexible plans if government rules change. Let’s hope that Welcome Week will be bigger and better than ever and that the year ahead turns out favourably for all.

Featured Image: Unsplash | Nathan Riley | @nrly