A Student Evacuation at Christmas is Not Good Enough

Yesterday, the government unveiled their plans for universities this Christmas, after weeks of anxious worry from both lecturers and students.

With students live-tweeting their experiences in lockdown, making it onto day-time TV only to receive an extraordinary amount of patronising and hateful comments online, students living in lockdown have been at the forefront of a lot of peoples’ minds over the past couple of months.

The news that students will have to return home for Christmas in an evacuation style is bitter-sweet. Yes, it means that most students won’t miss out on spending Christmas at home, and it does prevent a spread to some extent. But this language of evacuation, coupled the hurried rush that the government seem to believe is best, completely ignores the issues that the UCU have been raising over the past few months, and punishes the already vilified students across this country.

The government plan to “facilitate as much testing as possible”, which is of course ideal with rise of Covid cases in this second wave. However, this is all too late. Where were these mass testing ideas when millions of students were forced back onto university campuses, into busy city-centres, and into part-time hospitality and retail work?

Their plan to begin this evacuation period after the national lockdown finishes does demonstrate some level of understanding that a spread of cases is likely with the mass moving of millions of students. However, the tight period between the third and the ninth of December to move out is simply not viable. Students may have had flights booked already after this time period, which are extremely costly to change due to the month of December being an expensive time to travel. Also, where do students with part-time jobs that they cannot leave fall into this plan? Again and again, it seems that the poorest students will be hit worst by the government’s plans.

It goes without saying that this government have shown their true, uncaring colours this year, and although this plan to get students back to their families for Christmas is sweet on the surface, it is hard to forget their actions from just a few months ago. There are approximately 2.6 million Muslims in Britain, who all had to celebrate Ramadan in lockdown with an evening’s notice. Where was the month-long warning there?

When will this punishment of students end? All we ask for, for the £9,000 a year we spend studying, is that we are treated with respect and have access to safety if needed. That has been partly granted with these new plans, but the delay of its delivery and the blatant dismissal of the UCU’s concerns for months is simply not good enough.

The government should in future listen to the UCU, who are calling for online learning to begin now to allow students more time to travel home.

Photo courtesy of Victoria Heath

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