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‘Apprehensive and Nervous’: Students’ Thoughts on a Two-Week University Lockdown Before Christmas

Students at Christmas

University students around the UK might be put into an enforced two-week lockdown, reported the Guardianon October 14. This lockdown would be from December 8 until December 22 as part of PM Boris Johnson’s pledge to “get students home for Christmas”. 

But what do students think about the prospect of a two-week lockdown just before Christmas? 

Difficulties getting home for Christmas

Difficulties getting home for Christmas

“I think a two-week lockdown would be difficult to implement,” remarked Isobel Rowland, a final year student studying public relations and media studies at Sheffield Hallam University.

She said that as many students tend to live far away from their parents, enforcing a two-week lockdown may mean that students wouldn’t be able to get home for Christmas. 

Emelia Jack, a final year Italian and film studies student at the University of Leeds, thought that the lockdown should happen earlier than December 8, “to avoid students rushing back to their homes en masse three days before Christmas.”

Will students follow the rules?

Will students follow the rules?

Some people have been questioning whether students would follow the new rules put in place two weeks before Christmas. 

“A huge number of students would return home before any lockdown even started,” said Megan Bedford, a first year PGCE student at Leeds Trinity University.

 “Many students will try and get home for Christmas, despite the lockdown measures in place,” said Emilia. 

Maxim Harris, a final year medicine student at the University of Birmingham added that even if students stay at university during the lockdown, he doesn’t think they’ll follow the rules, “as is the case right now”. 

However, Isobel disagreed. She said she believes most students will follow the rules, particularly because of the large amount of media attention about students testing positive for coronavirus.

Richard Evans, Founder of The Profs agency and member of The Tutors Association said: “I understand that the Government is keen to bring in hard measures now to avoid having to make more difficult decisions at Christmastime.

“Whilst many will adhere fully, and many more will try their best, the government must prepare for any and all advice it gives to be ignored by a significant minority of people.” 

The impact on students’ mental health

The impact on students’ mental health

Talking about the impact that COVID-19 is having on the students he teaches, Evans said: “Many of my students and mentees at universities around the country are seeing their friends catch COVID-19 on a daily basis as students from all around the country interact.”

He added that the reason this two-week pre-Christmas lockdown is so important is to prevent infected students passing on the virus to more vulnerable people, such as their parents and grandparents.

Many students have suffered with poor mental health over lockdown, with a recent report saying that only 27 percent of students feel that their university provides adequate mental health support.

Megan said: “I feel worried about the prospect of a two-week lockdown before Christmas and the impact that this will have on my studies, mental and physical wellbeing.”

Emilia said: “Many young people are suffering, especially those who have difficult living situations or who are prone to mental health issues.”

Reverting back to online learning

Reverting back to online learning


Although Maxim will spend most of his final year in placements, he said that some of his larger group teaching had already moved online this year. Although he said this has “worked rather well,” he admitted that the small group teaching in hospitals is “by far” the best way to learn.  

However, he added that if he was learning entirely online, with limited opportunities to socialize and make new friends, “I think I would be devastated.”

Maxim doesn’t think the UK government is providing students and universities with enough support and guidance with online learning. He said: “I think that some sort of standard should have been set for online teaching by the government, rather than allowing universities to set this standard themselves.”

Megan’s lectures have been moved mostly online. She explained that this has had both benefits and drawbacks. For example, she’s liked being able to pause PowerPoint recordings and taking her time writing notes and saving on travelling costs to and from university. However, she didn’t like the longer response time to get help. 

Emilia said she is one of the few people who likes learning online. However, she said she’s not sure online assessments during the two-week lockdown would be a good idea.

“Some people are grateful for the lack of distraction, but others feel isolated and without a release from the stresses of assessments,” she said.

Evans explained that when universities attempted online teaching at the start of COVID-19, they were not sufficiently supported. When online learning then received negative reviews from students, it was quickly dismissed as ineffective.

He added that in his experience, online teaching can be highly effective when done well, but it requires some training to get right.

Evans explained the measures his company has taken to help students with online learning. He said: “I have a graphics tablet so that I can write on the screen naturally. All of my sessions are video recorded so my students can replay them when self-studying. We even built an online whiteboard, BitPaper, which allows me to create perfect, reusable and gamified online lessons and study notes for my students.

“The technology, when properly incorporated into education, makes the educational experience far better. Students do most activities online these days - so it makes sense to them that education can be conducted online too.”

What the government should do

What the government should do

So, what should the government do to help students safely go home for Christmas? We asked the students what they thought. 

As a final year medicine student, Maxim is classified as an essential worker and has been completing placements in hospitals over the last year.

He said: “I think that the government should be making decisions based entirely on the science and in order to protect NHS capacity, which will inevitably be stretched over the winter period. 

“The idea of lifting a lockdown for Christmas and allowing people to go to the pub, to restaurants and gather etc. doesn’t sit well with me.” 

Megan, on the other hand, thought that the government has done all they can do. She said: “perhaps care packages should be sent to those in isolation.” 

Emilia said: “It would be better to roll out testing throughout the end of November and early December amongst all students across the country, so that those that aren’t at risk can safely go home. 

“There are still many students who do not feel reassured by the fact that they were encouraged to go to university under these circumstances.” 

She suggested that if students had been more aware of what university would be like, many would’ve chosen to take a year out. She said that much more could be done by both the government and universities to address mental health while students are self-isolating. 

Evans said: “Schools need to be supported and allowed autonomy to do what is best for their students. The Department for Education needs to continue to help schools to innovate and move their teaching online wherever possible in case of further lockdowns.”

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Written by Chloe Lane
A Content Writer for TopUniversities.com, Chloe has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Reading and grew up in Leicestershire, UK. 

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