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How has Covid-19 changed university life?

Expert advice and answers for students starting university in 2022

If you’re planning on starting university in 2022, you might be feeling a bit concerned about the ways that Covid-19 could affect university life.

It’s impossible to say exactly what will be happening with university in 2022 – and things could even have returned to pre-pandemic normality by then – but here’s what current students and university representatives have to say about some of the most common concerns that have been popping up on our sister site The Student Room’s forums.

Online lectures and blended learning

Lots of The Student Room (TSR) members have been asking whether university lectures will be online or in person next year. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how courses will be delivered in 2022, we do know how it’s been working so far.

Lectures and seminars were all moved online during the 2020 lockdown when university campuses closed, but since reopening in September 2021, most universities have been offering blended learning – that is, a combination of recorded lectures you can watch online and face-to-face classes.

Of course, this isn’t true of every degree and every university – for example, some courses are a lot more hands-on than others, which would mean classes need to be held in person.

Emma, a third-year diagnostic radiography student and University of Suffolk student said that the way teaching is delivered will be “dependent on the university you're studying at and which course you're studying.

“The University of Suffolk offers both face-to-face and online lectures. Some lectures are only online, whereas the majority of them are both in-person and online, with the option for students to decide how they'd like to participate in the lecture,” Emma finished. 

The director of student experience at the University of Bedfordshire, Ruki Heritage, advised that as it varies, “I would encourage students to research what delivery model your preferred university is offering.”

And for anyone concerned about what would happen if there was another lockdown, Ruki reassured that “universities now have resources in place and are able to adapt their learning to current government advice, so if a lockdown were to occur your learning would not be compromised should an online or hybrid model be required.”

Covid-19 prevention and safety at university 

Some TSR members have been worried about feeling safe at university, particularly when it comes to avoiding coronavirus.

Ruki from the University of Bedfordshire said that “the pandemic and legislation is changing rapidly, but we seem to be heading to a more campus-based experience.”

And because more lectures and seminars are happening in-person, students can expect that they “may well be encouraged to wear a face mask indoors, and universities are currently encouraging students to get tested twice a week,” Ruki commented. 

An anonymous user on TSR was concerned about their fellow students not following the Covid guidelines and risking everyone’s safety

Ruki advised that “students can always raise concerns to a member of staff if they are concerned about the behaviour of students or staff. At the University of Bedfordshire we have a team of dedicated ‘Return To Campus Advisors’ to support students with pandemic-related enquiries.”

“Most unis have a team dealing with Covid safety on campus. You might be able to find their contact details on the relevant webpages,” commented TSR member Admit-One.

Moving to university or staying at home

With some classes still being held remotely, lots of TSR members have been feeling torn between moving out for university or staying at home and commuting – and possibly saving a bit of money in the process.

First-year University of Portsmouth student Michaela lived at home for the first part of the academic year before moving to university.

“I found that when I was at home, I had the same routine every day, whereas moving to uni gave me some more independence and flexibility to do different things,” they shared.

“Even if you don’t have many lessons in person it is still great to go into the uni for study sessions, to meet people in the local area, get to know the place you are studying and it makes you feel more like a uni student,” they added.

On the other hand, Funtimes01_ said they’re glad they decided to commute to university by train, because “it’s majorly expensive to live away from home at uni, juggle work, studies, pay rent, bills, food etc… [if you commute] you’ll save yourself from a few thousand pounds worth of debt with interest.”

“It depends on what you want from your time at uni and your opinion about commuting” commented lycheegal.

“For me, the commute would be annoying because I like going to the uni library a lot and also student events are often near campus. But if you’re only going for lectures then you can download a podcast or whatever and be alright,” they finished.  

University of Liverpool student Ana said: “It’s definitely a personal choice. However, you definitely won’t be disadvantaged if you pick one over the other – it really is down to what you’re most comfortable doing.”

“What really helped me when I was deciding whether to commute or live at university was writing a big pros and cons list. It was nice to visually see the benefits and drawbacks of commuting or staying and it made my decision a lot easier to make,” they shared.

Applying to university after a gap year(s)

TSR member lysemily “finished sixth form in 2020 and am now planning on applying to uni…I will have had two gap years.”

They wanted to know how the 2022 application process will work for students like them who are no longer at school.

It doesn’t matter when you finish sixth form or college, the vast majority of applicants will still go through Ucas. This article explains how to write your Ucas application.

The only area that you might have to give a bit more thought to is getting your reference – whether you want to ask one of your former teachers or someone else who knows you well enough to provide one.

Your reference can “be a range of people from ex-teachers… to any employers you have had during your gap years. I personally went back to my sixth form for a reference as I wanted a more academic one” said mah1000000.

“Once you have a Ucas account you can input the details for your referee and it will request a reference. I'd recommend doing this as one of the later steps as once you have received your reference it locks a couple of options and also will allow you time to discuss your reference with your referee,” they added.

This article has tips and advice to help you get the Ucas reference you want.

Feeling anxious about face-to-face classes

Some students are feeling understandably anxious about the thought of being on a busy campus and sitting in packed lecture halls.

“I would say be kind to yourself. It is OK to feel anxious. For many young people, this will be their first face-to-face teaching and socialising for a couple of years,” commented Ruki from the University of Bedfordshire.
 
“Rest assured that universities now have fully embedded structures to ensure students and staff can enjoy a vibrant and safe university experience.  If you are struggling though, have a chat with Student Support or the Students’ Union to see how they can help,” Ruki advised.

Will I be able to learn remotely even if everything is running face-to-face again?

Over the last couple of years of lockdowns and school and university closures, some students have discovered that they prefer to work remotely.

An anonymous TSR member wondered what would happen if they did their work from home and stopped showing up to lectures.

PhoenixFortune suggested checking whether their course “already has an established distance-learning equivalent course,” which they could ask to be transferred onto.

If it doesn’t, they advised that the university will “likely insist on a minimum level of attendance. My university had an engagement requirement, so if I missed four contact sessions in a row, I would start getting emails asking why I wasn’t attending. Multiple warnings and no improvement would result in withdrawal from the course.”

And “universities are also actively investigating the viability of providing online learning only, so make sure you check their website or attend a virtual open day and check with their admissions team,” commented Ruki from the University of Bedfordshire.

Has Covid changed how much students want to socialise?

For lots of people, making friends and going out is a huge part of their university experience.

TSR member Zackary12345 wanted to know if the pandemic has made people want to socialise less: “not because of the risk of catching the virus, but have you become more comfortable spending time on your own?”

“Each day is different,” commented BurstingBubbles, “sometimes I want to socialise more because of what I’ve missed out on during the pandemic but other days I don’t have the energy to socialise and find it more difficult than before Covid.”

For Ghost_in_my_soup, “I think it was the opposite… I still enjoy my own time and need time off to charge my social batteries but I've actually found post-pandemic me has been craving socialising a lot more than pre-pandemic me.”

And flamingolover agreed that starting university during Covid-19 made them “really excited to socialise. I love meeting new people and not being able to really took a toll on my mental health so once I got to uni I tried to go to most of the socials and parties and had an amazing time!”

How is socialising at university different to sixth form?

TSR member ah6100tsr wanted to get an idea of how socialising at university would be different to sixth form.

“I found uni to be more social,” shared University of Portsmouth student Chloe.

“You get more chances but you have to take them. For example, the first day I moved in, people in my halls were inviting people to their flat parties to meet everyone and I went and this is how I met a lot of my friends at uni,” they added.

“University is definitely a 'what you make of it' experience – so if you put in the effort to make new friends/go out and make the effort with others, they will of course make the effort with you. I think it also helps that there's such a wide variety of people that go to university, so there will definitely be people that you click with,” said University of Liverpool student Ana.

Making friends at university

No matter how confident you are, it’s totally natural to feel nervous about the prospect of meeting so many new people and making friends at university – especially off the back of a pandemic, when plenty of people might be feeling like their social skills are a little rusty.

“During classes, you could sit next to people who look like they’re by themselves and strike up a conversation – something related to the course or class is usually the easiest place to start. Slowly you’ll start to become more familiar with people and you can develop friendships from there,” suggested Rebecca, a third year psychology student at the University of Huddersfield.

And “due to Covid, classes are much smaller so it’s much easier to get talking, especially in group activities. Most of your peers will probably share the majority of your classes so just get to know them,” suggested WolfShade88.

“The best ways to meet other people are to go to Freshers’ fair, society taster sessions and get involved with any group chats for Freshers,” commented York St John University student Lydia.

“I know it is really hard but once you have made that first step, it comes easier each time. There is a society for pretty much everything so you will be able to find some like-minded people,” Lydia added.
WolfShade88 agreed that societies are “the best places for meeting people that have the same interests as you and want to talk about them.”

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