Uni students face uncertainty over lectures, accommodation, fees and freshers

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Uni students face uncertainty over lectures, accommodation, fees and freshers

Faced with paying living expenses and housing fees while working remotely, Sandy Rashty chats to young members of the community as they prepare to study under Covid restrictions

Students Eva Jacobs and Sam Kunin
Students Eva Jacobs and Sam Kunin

University students have said that vague guidance around contact hours means that many will be paying for accommodation away from their homes, while predominantly studying online.

Students will be faced with paying living expenses and housing fees for accommodation they committed to last winter.

“I am potentially going to be in that situation,” said Shoshana Cohen, who is reading English at Bristol University. “I was supposed to have in-person seminars this term but with the new government regulations I don’t know if those are going to happen.

“I signed a contract for my house this year last December; so I might be paying rent but only have university online.”

Activities at Jewish Societies (JSocs) across the country will also be limited due to restrictions on social gatherings as a result of COVID-19.

But Ms Cohen, Bristol JSoc’s Interfaith Officer, said the society will adapt to the situation.

“We’re currently talking to the chaplains about other events we can put in place, there will be weekly zoom events and we’re also looking at getting a gazebo to try and organise some in-person events if possible with the government’s new guidelines. For Yom Kippur, we are preparing boxes for students with food to have before the fast.”

Former JSoc President Eva Jacobs, who is going into her third year at Sheffield University, said a lot issues are “up in the air”.

The Civil Engineering student said: “As I understand it, lectures are all going to be online, they’re aiming for us to have labs but I think it’s hard for them to say at the moment. We’re also expecting to have one contact hour face-to-face a week. It’s probably all up in the air at the moment.”

She added: “Last year I would have 20 to 25 hours a week of lectures, labs and tutorials. Labs and practicals are essential for my course, I don’t know how they will do it, but it’s important because it’s such a practical subject.”

Ms Jacobs said activities at the society might be limited but that the small society would predominantly focus on engaging people this year via social media.

But Chinese-student Sam Kunin, who is going into his second year at Cambridge University, said it was worth students staying at accommodation near campus, despite limited contact hours.

He said: “Courses may end up being predominantly online but we can’t forget the importance of university as a step in our holistic development into adulthood. At least in Cambridge our goal is to make sure people still feel part of something bigger and have a chance to meet new and interesting people despite the circumstances.

“I definitely didn’t think twice about wanting to go back to university. In so many ways these places really do become our homes.”

As one of the JSoc’s Fresher representatives, he said would commit to welcoming new students: “Bringing people together in a world where we all need to carefully distance is a real challenge but with a blend of online and small in person events, I have no doubt we’ll succeed.”

A UJS spokesperson said: “JSocs are also constantly reviewing if any kind of in person event can be done… we are seeing ideas such as Friday night takeaways, or bagel deliveries being considered.”

She added: “JSocs could plan their entire year from now until June but because of the level of uncertainty it can all change.”

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