Today I chaired a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Students to hear about the challenges as universities have returned. We were joined by students and student officers from different types of institution, subjects and levels of study who were drawn from all parts of the UK. The main concerns raised with us were on teaching and learning, testing and isolating, accommodation, and mental health.
Students at various points in their university career outlined the problems with blended and online learning, with postgraduate research students who are unable to access the resources they need to carry out studies seeking support to extend their studies. Some students also highlighted the cost of specialist software and hardware needed for particular courses, and poor WiFi conections in shared houses were affecting many.
We discussed the very different approaches taken to testing by different universities and there was a general concern for more testing to be provided by government rather than individual universities, to increase accessibility. We also discussed problems regarding accommodation providers not reimbursing students wishing to return home and some cases of excessive prices for food provided to students while they are self-isolating.
I have spoken to Universities Minister Michelle Donelan about the meeting and have written to her to share all the concerns raised. We are planning a further meeting next month to review the situation, and I am organising a similar meeting for further education students.