With students experiencing first-hand the disruption caused by Covid-19 to our academic and social lives, what might we expect from the new academic year?
As social distancing measures are expected to stay in place for the foreseeable, notwithstanding the possibility of a second wave, the effects of Covid-19 on our daily lives are likely to be long-lasting.
First, Freshers’ week will be very different. The start of term will herald the arrival of students from all over the country and even the world, carrying with them all the risks associated with that. It’s hard enough to hold off freshers’ flu, so extra precautions will be in place.
Our social lives, as expected, will take the biggest hit. Despite the gradual reopening of pubs and restaurants during July, it will be a while before we can expect a return to bigger and boozier nights out. And for good reason. I defy anyone to try and social distance in Jesters, especially after a couple of Jesticles. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a bit longer to return to the ‘palace of dreams’ that we all know and love, and as a History student, I particularly lament the yearly Histsoc Orange Army pub crawl which undoubtedly won’t go ahead.
A lot of the big freshers’ events are not expected to happen. SUSU are yet to confirm any events hosted by them, holding off until they have a better idea of the position we will be in by September. It’s also unclear how sports and societies will function in the new year if social distancing measures remain. I can’t help feeling grateful for my aversion to exercise which spares me from having to navigate a socially-distanced gym next year.
Academically, the university have confirmed that campuses will be open by the start of the new term. What this will mean for teaching is currently unclear, but students have been told to expect a “blended approach” of online and face-to-face learning. How this affects different subjects will likely be at the discretion of different departments, and dependent upon the national risk level by September. Obviously, more contact-hour-heavy subjects will have found the transition to online learning particularly jarring, especially those which need access to labs or university equipment. Even for those who found the transition to online learning more natural, I imagine we’re all looking forward to getting back on campus ASAP.
That being said, even as campuses reopen and we begin lectures again, social distancing measures will still be in place for a while, and face coverings will probably be necessary on campus. I look forward to actually talking to human beings again, but fear my social skills are in dire need of refreshment before I am let loose on the world.
With the ongoing fallout of Covid-19, many students who were expecting to begin their year abroad or in industry placements will either have had their placements completely cancelled or will be beginning their year abroad from their bedrooms in Southampton. As I approach my third year, I have very mixed feelings on behalf of many of my friends who will now be around to finish their studies with me at the expense of their desire to study abroad like my boyfriend, who was expecting to fly to America as of August, but will instead be confined to online learning in Southampton until at least January.
We might also expect a drop in intake numbers as many incoming students will likely want to defer a year to let the situation settle, especially due to the expected impact on Freshers’ week. I can’t help but feel bad for the incoming first years, as even though I spent most of my Freshers’ week in the library, semester one of first year was still an exhilarating and formative part of my university experience.
Fewer students will also result in less funding for the university, but not that many students were getting their money’s worth anyway. Prospects for this year’s graduates are also not wonderful, so a boost in applications for Masters’ programs is likely.
While we as students, the university, the country and the world try to slowly get back to ‘normal’, there is still a very long time until September and much is still to be confirmed about what we can expect. There is loads we don’t know about how teaching will be carried out, but unfortunately our social lives will likely take the biggest hit as term resumes in an effort to keep everyone safe.