Lancaster Uni tells students worried about COVID-19 to suspend their studies

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“They basically told me, ‘Come back for Lent term or don’t come back.’”

SCAN spoke to an anonymous second-year student who chose to stay home for Michaelmas term, worried about her safety moving four hours across the country to a city in local lockdown. She told us about how she received an email from Lancaster University advising her that if she doesn’t move back to campus in Lent term, she should defer her studies to January 2022.

The anonymous student spoke about how the blended approach (brought in by the Vice Chancellor which would balance online learning with face-to-face teaching), has been detrimental to her in the first week alone.

“I have two classes that are taught face-to-face and they won’t stream it on Teams or record them,” she told SCAN. “I keep sending emails asking if there’s any updates or if there’s any information they can tell me. This should have been sorted a long time ago – when they first announced that people could choose to stay at home.

“I’m paying over £9k for classes I’m not even getting because I’m worried about moving to a city across the country.”

Lancashire has had over 137,000 new COVID cases since the start of October.

“There’s no reason they have to be face-to-face, either. In the last term of last year, they were all online and it worked well. Even my tutors have agreed that they have no idea why these tutorials must be in person.”

The anonymous student spoke about how being autistic affected her decision to stay at home this term. “I’m autistic and I know that there’s no way I’d be able to cope with another lockdown, on my own, on campus. The best thing to do was stay at home.”

However, she shared with SCAN an email from Lancaster University that told her she had no choice but to come back for Lent term, regardless of the circumstances. The email reads:

“As we have noted previously, we plan to provide fully online teaching until the end of the first term. If, after that point, you cannot return to us, you may be required to suspend your studies (intercalate) until January 2022.”

The email concludes with: “The safety of our students and staff remain our paramount consideration.”

When contacted, Lancaster Uni told SCAN: “For some subjects where there are practical, in-person requirements to be met for professional accreditation purposes (lab sessions, etc), they may need to defer if unable to attend for the rest of the year.”

The anonymous student is from the FASS department and has had no other communication about intercalation from her course.

She continued to tell SCAN that she has been charged for the first term of rent (£2,098.14) despite not being there or being given the keys.

“They told me that I would still have to pay the fees to keep the room open. I was told, ‘if you don’t pay, we will give the room to someone else.’ But that fee includes electricity, gas, water, internet access, porters – all things I cannot use from home. There should be a rent reduction.

“I don’t hold out much hope.”

The anonymous student told SCAN, “I was advised by the Part 2 convenor to take a year out of my studies if I was still too concerned to move onto campus in Lent term. I’m anxious enough as it is and, because of my autism, I like to know what’s going on. The uncertainty about being punished for not feeling comfortable to return makes me feel disappointed.

“Disappointed within myself for not being able to conform to their expectations and disappointed with the uni for making it so difficult to access disability services and discuss with someone my concerns about returning.”

Lancaster University has been contacted for a statement.

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