What it’s like finishing your degree during lockdown.

The thoughts of a final year student on issues regarding the completion of assessments during Covid-19.

Covid-19, Coronavirus, Corona or Rona. However you chose to label it, this epidemic is one of the worst global crises that we are likely to experience within our lifetime. Since the turn of the new decade, the world has been rocked by the ‘exponential growth’ of Covid-19, which has dominated media headlines with the devastation it has caused to nations around the world. Therefore, I want to start by saying thank you to the NHS staff and volunteers working on the front line and thank you to the essential workers who are out every day keeping the country going. It’s humbling to watch the country unite in fight against coronavirus and soon enough we’ll all be back sipping 2for1 cocktails and pints in sun. But as we all watch the daily number of deaths in the UK rise worryingly close to four figures, there’s understandably an aurora of anxiety and uncertainty among the general public about how and when this is all going to end.

Students, I can guarantee, are included in feeling anxiety and uncertainty not only because of the pandemic, but because of the exams and assignments we’ve yet to submit. Obviously, universities are closed, and they have been for some time. Some may ask the question ‘To what extent does this impact students?’ – Course content can be delivered online, students can still contact lecturers, and essays are mostly submitted online nowadays anyway.

So what’s all the fuss about? 


The Library is Shut.

Besides the fact I spend a lot in the library wishing I was in Revs, it is an unbelievably good environment to work in. This is not a thought I had in hindsight – in that I haven’t left all my work to the last minute and am therefore using the loss of the library as an excuse for a lack of motivation to work at home – as prior to the coronavirus, you could catch me in hiding in a corner of the library almost every day downing monster energy and razzing through journal articles with a highlighter. Now, that isn’t an option.

The loss of the working environment is a big thing, to me anyway. I understand the argument for being disciplined enough to work at home and I agree completely that students should have enough discipline to work effectively from home. My argument stems from the fact we do not have the option to go to the library and use that environment. At my university there are two libraries within close distance to each other in the city centre and towards the end of last semester when deadlines began to approach, the library I use became exceptionally buy as all the students flooded to it due to the partial closure of the other library. This meant that sometimes I’d walk to the library just to realise there were no available seats and then I’d have to walk back home again to work in my room. See I have no problem working at home myself and I am employed on a remote basis, so I actually quite enjoy it. Yet, academic work feels different and preparing a final year almost dissertation and assessments without access to the right environment and full range of material feels a lot tougher than it may seem.


It’s just not quite all there

Literally, it’s just not quite all there. ‘Temporarily Unavailable’ is a term I never thought I would have a problem with, but when the textbook which may answer all my questions is only available in hard copy and is therefore ‘Temporarily Unavailable’, an issue arises. The problem is worsened when the timescale attached to ‘temporarily’ ceases be defined, but deadlines remain. Suddenly, the word ‘temporarily’ makes me feel a little uncertain. Obviously there are work arounds to this issue and a lot of material can be accessed online, and on that note I do want to share my appreciation for the extra lengths the LJMU Staff are going too to support students at the moment, as the current situation is entirely out of their hands. Still however which way I think about it, not having access to material which other students in previous years did have access to feels disadvantaging. Saying that, I wouldn’t usually be the one to complain about feeling disadvantaged but covid-19 is impacting everything and everyone, whether we like it or not.


No more 9AM’s.

To some this may come as a gift from those above, saving them from the mornings of rolling out of bed still drunk, wearing whatever’s on the floor-drobe, and making it to lecture just in time for the first break. But to the third years and those who regularly attend lectures, no more 9AM’s also means no more lectures, or no more physical lectures anyway. Online lectures, if people are even having them, aren’t quite the same. Again, I appreciate the extra lengths lecturers are going too in order to make these online classes happen, but it’s not the same.

There’s likely a research paper somewhere which supports my opinion, but I think physical environments are much better for learning than for virtual environments. I also don’t think virtual is a sufficient substitute either, with that being said what other options do we have?


What do I want to happen?

Extensions are great and we have all already received extensions with mine being pushed back to early May. At my university however, there are thousands of students all in entirely different situations regarding their work. There will be some who have may have submitted their deadlines already, likewise there will be some who are yet to have even started. People work at different speeds and have different factors that impact their ability to work. A student, like myself, who has worked all year and has had little time to compete assignments will likely have more outstanding work than a student who hasn’t worked at all and has been able to focus all their time on their research. Fortunately, I am in a good position with my work in spite of working all year, but you get my point.

Therefore, I would like a No Detriment policy to be put in place not just at one university but for all university students.

I support the universities who have already adopted this approach such as The University Of Liverpool who recently sent out this email to students. Bournemouth University also implemented this policy after a student petition. Late last week my university also announced a ‘No Detriment’ policy, although we currently have very little detail; we are advised further detail is due.


Why do I want this to happen?

I simply believe that now some universities have implemented a ‘no detriment’ policy, I feel every student should have the re-assurance of the policy. The class of 2020 ‘s degree is being completed under abnormal circumstances to say the least, therefore it seems only logical that exceptions are made to accommodate said circumstances. It also seems logical for the exceptions to apply to everyone rather than only some univeristies, as in my opinion it somewhat invalidates a degree result.

Picture this: Joe and John both study Maths at different universities. As a result of covid-19 related disruption to his research, John receives a lower grade than he was expected. Joe also achieves a lower grade as a result of the same disruption, but his university approved a ‘No Detriment’ policy and Joe receives his average grade from the first semester, gaining him a higher grade than John. Joe and John have both taken on the same amount of debt their tuition and both study for a BSc in Mathematics, therefore it only makes sense they are treated the same.


Do I have anything positive to say?

To balance out the negativity from the points made in this post I’ll highlight some positive aspects from my lockdown experience as a student and living in a student house.                                                        

  • Nothing stops the party. After Grand National Ladies Day was cancelled and we no longer had the opportunity to dress/behave/gamble like we had money, we decided to host it at home. Spending all day sat in the living room dressed up in a shirt, tie and trousers, and betting on virtual horses, wouldn’t usually be on my list of ways to spend a Friday. I am really am it was though.
  • I’ve ate really well. ‘Well’ does not necessarily mean healthily, but I’ve ate well. This bullet point is getting left at that.
  • TikTok makes time fly. If you’re finding yourself with time to kill get on TikTok. My initial scepticism regarding censorship by Chinese government officials working at TikTok put me off for a while at first, but after downloading it I begin to understand the hype.
  • I’m getting my money’s worth from Netflix. **** Carole Baskin. Nothing else needs saying.
  • I guess the weathers been alright.

In sum, students are not exempt from feeling any emotions that workers may feel during the current climate with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty remain ever present. Steps are being taken by universities and progress is being made, but who knows what will happen next. The novelty of Covid-19 means no one can accurately predict the outcome of any decision, because we don’t have much, if any, previous relevant data to extrapolate. Universities do seem to be waiting for one another to lead the way during this period of uncertainty, but I have good faith that the right decisions will be made. We’re all going through this change together and when it’s over, just know, we’ll all be having a BIG old British party!


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