Students Reflect Upon a Year of Online University

By Amber Turner-Brightman

Illustration by Amy Tuff of Pugwash Magazine

As this academic year comes to a close, students are starting to reflect upon the challenges we’ve had to overcome this year. Opportunities to share our grievances are limited to short surveys at the end of each term, ones which many of us are not incentivised to complete, which is why I reached out to students to ask for their honest opinions on how this year has played out.

The feedback I received was fairly uniform, despite coming from different year groups and departments. Students shared their struggles with workload, motivation, and mental health due to university. Many cited the price we pay for tuition (which currently stands at £9,250 a year for UK students and up to £19,000 for international students) and how the quality of education we have received does not match this price. Overall, responses were overwhelmingly negative.

A pertinent issue expressed to me was a lack of communication from lecturers. I found this to be dependent on the course, but students from Palaeontology in particular discussed finding it generally “extremely hard to get support or find out if [they were] on the right track”, with a lack of responses to emails and vague feedback on assignments. Many Computer Science students also spoke about feeling “ignored left right and centre” by lecturers, found any assistance offered “useless”, and even said their head of faculty became involved due to the sheer volume of complaints. On Business and Economics, I was informed an entire forum was turned off after somebody posted a complaint about the standard of support they had received.  

Students also felt their mental health was not sufficiently taken into account, particularly those with ADHD who found the “lack of structure” caused by working from home made it “borderline impossible” to complete assignments. Many also found their lecturers to be generally unsympathetic to issues such as depression and anxiety. One Course Representative I spoke to told me that students were already “keeping quiet about things” before the pandemic, let alone with “communication online limiting [their] social interactions”. When trying to fulfil their role, they described “less than mediocre” responses from their department, making it “draining” to ask lecturers for changes. One thing everyone seemed grateful for this year, however, was relatively easy access to ECFs (Extenuating Circumstances Forms) in instances where they were unable to complete assignments due to their wellbeing. 

For those on practical courses, this year has been particularly challenging. Students have been left feeling dejected trying to adjust to online learning, with applied elements not translating to Zoom successfully. One Film Production student I spoke to described feeling “really underprepared for assignments”, and another found it “tiring and stressful” to deal with such large workloads over the internet. I also spoke to a student on Politics and International Relations who felt a significant lack of adjustment from lecturers, with students being left to work around obstacles themselves rather than having lecturers adapt assignments accordingly. Sympathy was expressed to lecturers, who have also had to adjust to teaching online and often did not have appropriate infrastructure, but students still felt there was more that could have been done to make this year more accommodating. 

As a magazine run by students, for students, Pugwash is dedicated to covering issues close to the hearts of the University community. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to everyone’s experiences and offer a platform with which they could discuss their grievances. If you have anything you’d like to share about this year, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! 


One comment

  1. Hi,

    Strong piece.

    I have ADD. Happy to support anyone needing some fresh ideas on how to structure their day.

    Asdac should be able to help to.

    Kind regards,



    Liked by 1 person

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