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Coronavirus: what now for soon-to-be graduates?
Master’s student Jack Wynn is feeling uncertain about what the future will hold for employment prospects .
I’ve now been away from the classroom for a few weeks. In isolation, I have very little motivation to work on my end of semester assignments with remote direction, refreshing my university inbox for updates on upcoming exams, and searching job boards for a miraculous influx of new opportunities.
I’m close to finishing my MA in magazine journalism at Cardiff University. Throughout the year, I’ve been looking forward to this time where the job search commences; I was prepared to apply for exciting journalism and content creation roles and to showcase the vast skill set acquired during my master’s training.
The most extreme circumstances, however, have made this practically impossible for most students expected to finish their degrees this summer.
It’s difficult to think that not long ago we were all tuned into the news about a slow-spreading virus called Covid-19. Then its sudden and aggressive acceleration within a few weeks changed society as we know it.
Because of this, all employment possibilities are non-existent. Freelance projects I was hired to undertake have fallen through. Other people I know have lost part-time jobs they relied on to help pay their bills.
Student finance is generous, and I’m grateful that such a system exists, but it’s not practical to expect students to rely solely on these payments. This has added an immense amount of strain to what I should prioritise and, ultimately, where I will end up.
I make an effort to analyse the online job boards every day, hoping for new opportunities, as well as mail-shotting my CV to anyone that will take notice. Strict social distancing restrictions and closures of pubs, bars and restaurants around the UK mean even jobs in retail and hospitality are a thing of the past.
I can’t help but compare this to when I was job searching after my undergraduate degree five years ago. It was still difficult to get your foot in the door; the competition to secure junior journalism positions has always been challenging because of their rarity. But I did manage to work for a while.
There’s a stark contrast in the number of opportunities there were five years ago compared with now. After my BA degree, I found invaluable advice within industry publications and online about how to secure your first job after your studies. Now, soon-to-be graduates are left on the shelf as the economy undergoes a lengthy process of recovery.
I’d never really thought too much about it before, but the saying is true: hindsight is a wonderful thing. I look back to the time when I was filling in the application for my course, excited for change and ready to progress with my dream career path. But as I approach the end, it feels as though I’m further away than ever to getting my foot in the door.
These past few weeks at home have led me to believe that I was far better off working in a full-time customer service job I didn’t particularly enjoy with little opportunity to branch out.
I’ve been in touch with Student Finance Wales and they confirmed payments will go ahead as planned for all students. I am, however, still waiting for a response about the possibility for students to receive extra funding once teaching finishes.
Even a drop in tuition fees would be a step in the right direction. But now I live in hope, for myself and others in a similar situation, that we can push through these extreme barriers with the right support and continue to persevere in an adverse employment climate.
Coronavirus: will students get compensation for losing out on learning?
UK student Anna Rees says that students have been given little detail about their learning for the months ahead and worries it may lead to apathy among students.
Coronavirus has shaken us all, it’s impacted everyone in some way and I’ve been no exception. I go to Cardiff University, and the changes I’ve seen on campus have been vast. We never anticipated that we would have been affected on the scale that we have. It seems to have all come at once, and many students feel worried about their futures.
Whether it is remote teaching, graduation uncertainty, financial worries, or lack of compliance to guidelines and residence situations, university students have a multitude of issues to face during this uncertain time.
Most students in the UK live off their student loans, but many need jobs on top to keep themselves going. Coronavirus has meant the places where students usually work: pubs, cafés, shops and restaurants, have all been closed, leaving students jobless and hopeless.
On top of my studies, I am self-employed as a nail technician. However, the studio where I work has been closed for the foreseeable future, so I don’t know when my next paycheck will come in. We cannot work, nor go to university, however we’re still expected to pay rent and tuition fees. Surely this isn’t fair?
There has been no news of student loan repayments being put on hold for already-graduated students (unless they stop working), like there has been in the USA. Nor has there been any discussion of stopping or reducing our tuition fees, as we are not getting the education that we paid for. It’s a very difficult situation to be in, as we are aware this is no fault of the university’s, but it is also not our fault – so why should we have to fork out cash for an education that we are not being given?
It is evident that most students have fled their university towns and student accommodation to move back home, often to their parents’ homes.
However, we often forget that some students don’t have this same opportunity: some don’t have supportive parents or family ties; some cannot afford to do so; some people’s parents do not have the capacity to take them back in, the list could go on.
It can be upsetting seeing posts on social media from those who have returned home and are regarding isolation as a luxurious time, when it’s likely that we all know someone who is still at university and cannot return home.
I have friends who were studying abroad in the US when the coronavirus crisis began and who have found this possibly the toughest time of all. When speaking to them, I heard their utter devastation over having to return home and the confusion over whether their studies will be impacted.
A friend of mine was studying in the US this year and has been forced to return home to the UK where she must continue her studies online, however, the lecture content will be delivered according to the US time-zone, so she is expected to attend her lectures at inconvenient times.
At Cardiff University, and indeed many other universities in the UK, University and College Union strikes have been prevalent for the past month, before coronavirus took over. This has meant that some students have had less than a month’s worth of lectures this term.
Although we are aware that the current crisis is no fault of our universities, we cannot be expected to pay vast amounts of money for teaching that we aren’t actually receiving. Yes, lecturers are recording themselves speaking and sending it over to us, but is this really what we paid for? What about all the other learning components like personal tutor meetings and library access? Perhaps the most frustrating thing of all is the uncertainty over our exams: will they be online? Will they even go ahead?
Quite frankly, paying £9,000 a year plus rent and living costs to receive one term’s worth of education is appalling, and students aren’t taking this lightly. Many students have already been making complaints and requesting financial compensation for the strike action that affected their studies and exams.
While many students have found this situation highly stressful, others have adopted a “can’t be bothered” approach. We are fed up with how our university experience has been delivered, but can you blame us? I worry that students will give up on this year of university, putting them further behind and making university a more stressful and negative environment for many.
Mental health is already a prominent issue within the student community and student support services are often full, have ridiculous waiting lists and have to close during exam season.
With coronavirus comes isolation, and with isolation comes an increasing threat of mental illness. Whether it is stress, loneliness or any other component, students are highly vulnerable, and I worry that this pandemic will leave the mental health of the student population worse than it was before. This is yet another aspect of education that we pay for, and although the university has offered phone and online support, for many it is not enough.
Coronavirus continues to impact everyone in society, students know they are not alone. The fight to gain compensation for our loss of studies will likely be a hard one, and I expect the exam uncertainty to continue over the next few weeks. All we want is clear and decisive information, so we can prepare ourselves in advance and gain the best results possible in this time of turmoil.
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