Article By Fiona Willmott
Coronavirus has caused an upheaval in life that the majority of us never imagined, and it’s called for a lot of difficult decisions. Prospective students are no exception, and with the deadline for deciding whether to go to uni or not this year having passed last Thursday, many young people are feeling unsure about what going to uni, or not, will mean for them in these unprecedented times.
If you were planning on heading to uni in September, you’ll have decided by now whether you’re up for online lectures and potentially missing out on the social side of uni, however, if you were considering enrolling for September 2021, it’s unclear what kind of situation you’ll be signing up for.
With every uni having different policies, how are you supposed to make such a huge decision, especially when no one knows what’s happening in a month, let alone a year? So we’ve put together a short guide on how to navigate this strange situation, and hopefully provide some advice that will help you with some tricky decisions:
Will I be able to physically go to uni in September 2021?
As ever with these unusual times, things are always subject to change, but it seems that the majority of universities are planning to go ahead with the September 2021 semester as usual. A lot of unis are planning on using ‘blended learning’, a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching. It’s likely that larger teaching activities such as lectures will have to be conducted virtually, however smaller group activities like seminars and tutorials can be done in person, as long as they can be carried out safely and in accordance with government guidelines.
How am I supposed to choose a university if I can’t go and visit?
Many universities are hosting virtual open days – obviously, it’s not quite the same as walking around a campus or staying with friends and going on a night out, but it should give you some sense of what to expect. You can go on a virtual tour of campus, ask questions, find out more about the courses you’re interested in, and learn about the city. UCAS also offers a service which allows you to chat with students currently at uni, so you can always get in touch with somebody who knows your prospective uni in a really authentic student way.
Will there be social distancing on campus in 2021?
Currently, it’s looking likely that social distancing will be in effect in public spaces on campuses, like libraries, gyms, cafés, and communal areas in halls, and you’ll probably be required to wear a mask and follow one-way systems in these areas. So, sorry to say it, but it looks like nights out might not be quite what you’d imagined for your uni experience. However, it’s not all doom and sitting alone in your bedroom – you won’t have to socially distance or wear a mask in your immediate accommodation (e.g. your flat or house), as you’ll be classed as the same household as your flatmates. You’ll be able to socialise and stay overnight with one other ‘household’, as long as you maintain social distancing rules. Flat party anyone?
What’s happening with uni fees?
You may have seen the uproar around the fact that students will have to pay full tuition fees, even if uni courses are still fully online come September. Given that universities are planning on-campus teaching in 2021, it’s likely that full fees will be in effect then, especially as courses will be in a blended learning format. In terms of accessibility to student loans, Student Finance has been supporting current students both with tuition fees and maintenance loans throughout the pandemic with no view to halting payments. So, although you probably will have to pay full academic fees, you’ll still be able to access financial support which will cover these entirely. However, maintenance loans don’t always cover the cost of living at uni and many students rely on part-time work alongside their degree. It’s worth bearing in mind that traditional ‘student jobs’ such as working in a bar or promoting for clubs are likely to be more rare than usual, so make sure you take this into consideration if you’re looking for easy ways to make some extra cash at uni.
Will it be harder to get a place at uni for 2021?
It’s possible that there will be an influx of applications to start uni in Autumn 2021, as some sources estimate that more than one-in-five prospective students for the Autumn 2020 term deferred their places due to the coronavirus outbreak. However, each individual university decides whether to allow a student to defer their place or not, so it isn’t necessarily the case that your dream uni will have an overflow of applications. Basically, if you really want to go to uni, don’t let this put you off.
It’s a big decision to make in terms of both time and money, so if you feel you need more guidance, visit each uni’s website or even try and get in touch with them – you’ll be able to find more specific advice about how they’re handling the coronavirus pandemic, and what you can expect if you decide to head to uni in 2021. Good luck!