d) Perception gap between studying at home vs in Educational institutions.

Online classes are the modus operandi that practically the entire world has resorted to due to the current situation of the ongoing pandemic. Although they provide flexibility in the domain of teaching with respect to space and accessibility. They also carry the risks of the lack of perception or deeper ingrained knowledge which physical classes provide with.

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There is a lack of face-to-face communication between the teacher and student in online classes and the exchange of ideas and content is something that is quite essential in the case of higher education which forms its basis on discourse of ideas and dissection of topics. Online Learning curbs the opportunity for this exchange to take place due to placed limitations. The obvious physical absence of a teacher might also cause a void of motivation for most students. Incase of online classes, the students have to motivate and be self reliant on themselves to pay attention to classes and not be distracted, this also counts in the skillset of time management along with self reliance. Which does not happen in physical classes as the interaction and discourse in class retains the attention of students.
With online classes being readily used, it also creates a new hurdle for those who are low in competency with the accessibility and usability of computers and devices. This serves as a new learning curve for them along with the strains of having to perceive knowledge via a virtual medium.
The other problem that is prone to arise with the onset of Online classes is the lack of quality check of the education or information provided via the resources and or the online medium.

Students currently residing and pursuing higher education in the United kingdom have expressed a growing disinterest and concern through several polls taken by different entities regarding  the mode of online education which has seemingly replaced the conventional classroom education.

Director of policy at the Higher Education policy institute, Rachel Hewitt,
has expressed that it is not a surprise that students are not completely satisfied with a model that has been devised and adapted in such extraordinary times.

 Aspects, like the handling of assessments or projects, have been met with students’ approval. In order to improve students’ reception, she feels it is important that universities use this time to do research and development after taking feedback from students regarding what works in terms of the online learning medium, to develop a feasible model to deploy in the next academic year, she further elucidated.


                                                             ) Examinations and Evaluation of students.
Examinations and routine assessments of the students provide fodder for motivation and empirical data regarding the progress of the student through which they and the institutions can monitor their grades and identify areas which require improvement. But with the current situation all forms of physical examinations have been called off for the foreseeable future.
           
Universities like Oxford and Cambridge alike have adopted measures to replace the conventional exams that are to be held in the summer with an Online assessment as a countermeasure to maintain social distancing norms brought on by the pandemic.
This measure was taken after there was an uproar among the students community who wished to be given the choice of not giving their finals this semester and or restart their final year in hope of securing a better form of evaluation and also to give their exams under more familiar and conventional mediums.

This move was put in motion after students from University College London (UCL), Oxford and Edinburgh regrouped with their peers at Cambridge in line for an alternative of the final year examinations, advising for a choice of assessments as a form of evaluation, warning that the worsening Covid-19 outbreak threatens their ability to score marks and may collectively affect their future career and or academic prospectus.

Cambridge University exclaimed that they are modifying this summer’s exams with online assessment. Students who would be unable to attend this due to “illness, caring responsibilities or technical difficulties” will be allowed to take the assessment later on when conditions are favourable again and the university is back in complete functionality.
They warn the students that this might prolong their education period and affect on ‘when’ they will eventually graduate.

 Prof Martin Williams, pro-vice chancellor for education at Oxford, proclaimed there would be “no conventional exams” next term. He said that the university is expecting to incorporate open-book exams, which will be taken in isolation by the students and then submitted online, and he urged the students to state their preferences in a web consultation, from where the conducting authorities can take note for future course of action.

Prof Martin Williams further exclaimed that the pandemic has thrown the students “into an academic limbo”.This limbo is especially grave for final semester students whose future course of action with respect to their education or career depends on their final year marks and also the arrival of their final marksheet or graduation certification.

With respect to exams being conducted online they would now be assessed on a project or assignment basis which can either be difficult or easier with respect to the students, this being out of the conventional route of a physical examination can become detrimental in the case of a few students who are not yet familiarised with the idea of an online assignment. The exams conducted will be MCQ based with time caps, which agains needs a certain level of familiarization with the interface for the students.

2) Student Issues

With the disruption of social mobility due to the onset of the pandemic arises a lot of issues which are geographical, economical and physical in nature. And all  these issues collectively cause hindrances to University students both residing in the UK and foreign.

Students are concerned how the pandemic will impact on their education as well as their finances. For foriegn students there is also the burden of accommodation cost during university closedown and also student debt which has the tendency to increase due to the elongation of the given course they are in.

  1. Accommodation

Graduates and undergraduates quite commonly live outside of their home towns or perhaps even countries, throughout the term time in university owned, or outsourced living quarters. The lockdown put in place by the government  resulted in the closure of  University campuses and social mobility alike. Which made several students depart from their rented space and return home in quick haste.

Higher Education Policy Institute upon conducting a poll among the university students,both under and post graduates, found that surplus of 50 percent of them had moved away from their term-time living quarters:


                       
According to the poll, 55%  of the students, which is the majority in this case,
 now live far away from their traditional term-time residence as a result of the pandemic.
Again, another 45% of the participants said that they had no change in space.

In majority, students had to depart from their accommodations before their contracts were exterminated and hence students were at a risk to pay rent even though the accommodation was not being used along with its resources. This causes a financial burden to everyone, both the students who have to pay for rent and the proprietor who needs the rent for perhaps maintaining their financial flow.

 Several university-run halls of residency and privately run Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) are now allowing students who have departed from university accommodations due to the coronavirus lockdown, to end their contracts prematurely without any charges to be paid, to reduce the financial burden – but that might not be the case with respect to most situations, where students might still have to pay rent..

b) Funding and Loss of income.

Student loan payments are still being enrolled by the government and will face no delay in payment or in the procedure of enrollment of new candidates for the program.
Which gives the student company breathing space regarding their finances a bit. 

The Students loan company will  have commented that students will receive their regular instalment of their Maintenance Loan at the scheduled beginning of their summer term, despite whether or not their university or provider have made alternative provisions for teaching.

But a huge portion of the student community do readily rely on income from working at part-time and temporary jobs to make up for their accommodation and fooding cost along with other items of both necessity and luxury. In the current situation of the pandemic and state of affairs, this work supply is most definitely running scarce and students are concerned on how they will make ends meet financially both in the present and the near foreseeable future.


Academician and a former Head of HE within the Scottish Government, Lucy Hunter Blackburn,  has hence commented (Student financial support in time of social isolation) for the need of an
 “emergency extension of the scholar loan scheme” to help students who have lost income during the pandemic.

Without a substitution in place for the loss of income, students will have to face the incongruous nature of a financial crunch to make ends meet.


c) College and university charging full fees.

The pandemic has closed the gates of all universities, schools and educational institutions in an effort to curb the spread of the virus and maintain social distancing norms with the help of a complete lockdown on social mobility. This closure was done in a haste among extraordinary situations and hence there also lies the uncertainty of when the campus gates will open again for classes and other activities.
With this arises the question, whether there’ll be classroom teaching in the near foreseeable future or whether courses are going to be taught completely or partially online.
And alongside this came the directive from the government that, University students in England will need to pay full tuition fees, and there would be no reimbursement even though the courses might take place online.

The National Union of Students has highlighted that it can get difficult for current students to attend classes and complete their education online, this move puts students who lack computers and stable broadband internet access at a disadvantage.
Along with that most students have the grievance that they are being unfairly charged for services and facilities which they are not getting to avail at the moment or the near foreseeable future. They feel the need of reimbursement or complete cancellation of fees excluding the tuition fees.

Students feel that their problems are not being taken into consideration or accounted for with this decision. They pay tuition fees to be taught by the faculties, with their years of experience and knowledge, face to face , they also pay the fees to access the facilities present in the university – like libraries, laboratories, societies, sports facilities and other amenities – in person.
 To expect the students to pay full fees for amenities that they can no longer access is causing a sentiment of grievance among the community.

International students have the grievance further as most of them arrive in the United Kingdom for HE, from possibly third world countries with lower levels of family income. For them it has to be nothing sort of a nightmare to have to pay such exorbitant amounts of money which might as well be the whole of their family savings or an education loan. For education where they can’t possibly access all the amenities which are supposed to be at their disposal. This might cause a feeling of guilt among these students, where they might resent their decision for HE in the UK.

Some applicants are reconsidering their university plans, during a term that has already seen exams being cancelled and replaced by estimated grades. there’s a “huge degree of worry and uncertainty,” says Sutton trust founder, Sir Peter Lampl.

Financial troubles are up ahead for universities who expect an unprecedented drop in overseas student enrollments, who pay  higher levels of fees and also contribute to a huge chunk of the university profits.

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“We don’t believe students will be entitled to reimbursement if the quality is there,” universities minister of UK, Michelle Donelan exclaimed after the government had announced the decision of not having fee cuts.

d) International students facing uncertainty.

About half a million international students arrived at the United Kingdom for Higher Education in the year 2018/19. This constituted about 20%  of the entire student population in the UK universities which amounted to about 2.4 million students in total.
China was the country with the highest number of student entries with about 120,000 students in the year 2018/19. This was followed by India, with slightly below 27,000 students and then the from the United States of America where around 20,000 came to the UK.
The table below shows that some institutions have particularly higher numbers of international students:  Given such a high percentage of students come and are enrolled into colleges and universities in the UK for Higher Education. They now fear an uncertain future, with subject to their VISA, education, employment and most importantly finance. Most of the students who are living in the UK to pursue HE have in all probability used their families and self savings to apply for the courses and have taken the help of loan programs. With the pool of employment via part time and temporary jobs dried they have run out of finances to support the basic necessities of fooding and lodging.

 Hundreds of international students within the United Kingdom  have resorted to food banks and other charitable ventures for their fooding requirements and grocery, after all forms of part-time employment and funding from families have run out during the lockdown. Some are also unable to pay the university course fees and are hence threatened with suspension by their universities which might end in their visas being cancelled.

Volunteers are feeding up to 600 students, most of whom are in their early 20’s and international students at the Newham Community Project in east London.

The pandemic is a double blow as international students here in the UK struggle to secure jobs and finance due to the pandemic, on the other hand even their families might be struggling to make ends meet in their native lands. With the lack of financial security from both the ends the students are simply left stranded and helpless. 

Some fear the pandemic means they’re not going to be ready to complete their educational degrees and qualifications. International students need to provide financial records and statements to elucidate that they have the funds to pay rent, university fees and personal living expenses before being granted visas. Failing which might cause hindrance in accessing one or their visa application being cancelled all together.



 e) Dismal state of mental health

While the grim economic reality continues to make headlines, the impact that the pandemic has had on mental health runs the risk of going unnoticed. The restrictions induced by Covid has resulted in unprecedented levels of deterioration in mental health conditions of individuals across all age groups. While isolation may prove to be successful in averting the more immediate and obvious hazards posed by the virus, its psychological impact must also be raised as a valid concern. 

            There is no doubt that the world was not equipped to tackle a biological disaster of this scale. It has been particularly hard for students and young adults who have never faced such extraordinary situations in their lifetime. They are still struggling to adapt to, what is popularly being called, “the new normal” with no promise of a favourable future at the end of the tunnel . The anxiety and frustration born out of this may result in more young minds resorting to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and alcoholism as a means of escape.

A June-July survey conducted by YoungMinds.org.uk involving  more than two thousand young individuals showed the following results:

As some groups have been more critically affected than others, we should take this moment to evaluate certain inequalities of access to mental health support and ensure that help reaches every corner of society.The public healthcare facilities must make sure that they work for the betterment of everyone and not only that of students. Swifter and more inclusive the response, the faster the country returns to any semblance of normalcy.


f) The Lack of employment

The Covid-19 situation has not only forced thousands of university graduates in the United Kingdom to let go of the much-awaited graduation ceremonies or to seek satisfaction in the online substitutes,but  it has also left them cursed with a professional future that holds little promise.

            The National Institute of Economic and Social Research conducted a study  in April that anticipates unemployment numbers to rise by a staggering figure of 5 million-from 1.34 million to roughly 6 million by May-taking the unemployment percentage to around 20% of the people. Professor David Bell(University of Stirling) and Professor David Blanchflower(Dartmouth College and a former member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee) have expressed their concerns about the future that awaits the labour markets; a future which they have referred to as “horrendous”. They hold that some of the currently furloughed workforce may return to work but it is possible only if the companies manage to come out at the other end of the crisis retaining their respective markets. The authors of the article, US and UK Labour Markets Before and During the Covid-19 Crash, therefore count the furloughed lot among the unemployed though they note that the official data may describe them as employed but currently not working. Their report suggests that the US and UK labour markets will witness an unforeseen fall in demand that will have devastating consequences on those already involved in the market and those willing to join it.

            Data produced by The Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that recession results in graduates entering jobs that offer low compensation and hardly guarantee long-term employment . This claim has been further validated by a report of The Resolution Foundation published on May 6. The report, called Class of 2020, states that the current financial fallout in terms of rising unemployment and decreasing job vacancies will be more devastating than that of the economic crisis of 2008-09 considering the present state of the labour market. In fact, it predicts a steep rise of 640,000 in the number of unemployed young people this year- taking the tally to upwards of a million.
           

Many of the lower wage paying jobs that education leavers have the tendency to enter during their first years post completing their education, is in the labour market in sectors like travel, service in retail stores and hospitality. All of which are going through economic downfall or are  shut down for business at present, and unlikely to open up or reach full capacity in the near foreseeable future, the report further says. “In other words, the first rung of the employment ladder looks to be broken, and it is unclear when, and if, it will be mended back to recent conditions.”