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Institutions face structural changes to support students amid the COVID-19 pandemic

As the UK government begins to up its efforts in impeding the growth of the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions have been forced to introduce structural changes.

Multiple universities have moved to online classes through means of digital platforms such as Blackboard and Canvas – sites prominently used among institutions across the UK.

Blackboard CEO Bill Ballhaus took to its official site with a notice, highlighting their plans to support institutions across the UK during the outbreak. He ensured that Blackboard will continue making online learning feasible for both staff as well as students.

According to the statement, the number of online users ‘has doubled every day’ and the platform is working diligently to keep up with this unprecedented surge.

To meet service user needs, Blackboard’s pro-active measures include activating ‘cross-functional response teams’ to ensure the functioning of the platform.

Universities have introduced responsive measures such as online libraries to make academic sources and books accessible to students.

Nottingham Trent University recently announced that it will waive accommodation fees for students who have the left the city during the nation-wide lockdown. Students who have vacated their residence provided by the university and are not returning will no longer be required to pay rent.

In a statement, the professor’s vice-chancellor Edward Peck said: “At every stage in this national crisis Nottingham Trent University has been committed to following Government and PHE advice whilst ensuring that the interests of our students are always paramount in every decision that we take.”

“We understand that many of our students rent from private third-party providers, both purpose-built student accommodation and houses in multiple occupation. NTU is not able to make a unilateral decision on behalf of our students regarding accommodation fees charged by these providers.”

PhD and master’s students have also signed an open letter urging research councils to publish a plan outlining the additional financial support required for postgraduate students.

Due to fieldwork at halt and university labs and libraries being shut, many are unable to complete their research projects.

March is a typically active period of the academic year – with lecture theatres packed and assignment deadlines approaching. This year, there is an unprecedented silence.

Users took to social media sites expressing that they are ‘mentally tapped out’ and ‘paralysed’ from the on-going situation.  

A PhD student at the University of Westminster stated that: “The assumption to go about academic responsibilities in one’s home has been readily taken advantage of. For many, staying at home brings forth added care responsibilities.”

“At present, many of us are taking on this additional workload to help us survive in the face of a virus that knows no boundaries. If these changes that are being introduced are causing more stress to students, then perhaps it’s time to reorganise the education system.”

To learn more about the government response and information provided by universities regarding COVID-19, visit this webpage.