University students find themselves ‘in limbo’

FORGOTTEN’ and ‘left in the dark’ are just some of the words used by university students across the county who have found themselves in limbo once again.
As the beginning of second semester approaches, students have been asked ‘not’ to return to campus due to Covid restrictions, while rent agreements continue to be enforced and no rebates offered on tuition fees.
“In some ways I feel university students have been forgotten about within all the regulations and restrictions,” explained 18-year-old Anna Guette from Enniskillen, who is a first year student studying  Dentistry at Queen’s University, Belfast.
“I believe that communication about and from universities in relation to arrangements for students is something that could definitely be improved as a lot of us have been left feeling in the dark.
“When I signed up to request student finance, I certainly did not think that I would be accessing pre-recorded or live lectures online in my own room at home.
“There can be no doubt that the quality of the learning experience has been impacted as a consequence of this and yet the expectation is that learning outcomes and standards will still be maintained.
“I had chosen to live in Queen’s University accommodation, so I have been fortunate to be able to continue with a rent break.
“This is not the case for all students, for example, those in privately rented accommodation where they have to continue to pay rent but are learning remotely and living at home.”
Anna added, “I feel that our government should look at this anomaly as a priority and consider a refund of these accommodation fees.
“I realise that the pandemic situation is very difficult for universities who are expected to reconfigure services in a rapidly evolving situation and I am sure that remote learning would not be their first choice in terms of our education.
“However, this is the situation that we find ourselves in and we have to remain positive and make the best of it.”
Klaudiusz Kozdroj from Lisnaskea was informed like many others by his university that there would be a mixture of face-to-face and remote learning, which prompted him to seek on campus accommodation for the year.
“I had booked accommodation at Ulster University Magee following emails from the university that there would be mixed learning and now later after receiving my accommodation, I have been told that all lessons will take place online.
“I have tried to cancel my accommodation through the early release form however I was denied. Now I am paying for accommodation which I have not used once and it’s costing me over £4,000 which I could have used for next year.
“I think it’s ridiculous how we were not told this earlier, I’ve contacted my student union however they only suggested the early release of my contract which I was already denied.”

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