These are challenging times for thousands of students in Wales and across the world.
A recent study by the Higher Education Policy Institute suggested that almost a third of applicants for undergraduate study in the UK felt less confident that they would get into their chosen university. We know this is a stressful time for many and outlined in our previous blog how we are working to ensure that this year’s Confirmation and Clearing process goes smoothly, and what we will do to minimise the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education in Wales, however and wherever it is delivered.
Of course, we recognise that it’s not only applicants for undergraduate study that have been affected. Applicants and current students on all types of programmes will have suddenly found themselves dealing with a new normality, whether that is trying to study from home instead of being in their research project labs or postgrad seminars, or finding that they are preparing for a postponed graduation.
We have been in touch with Students’ Unions to make sure that students are being given support to guide them through the crisis and are offering assistance or advice where it is appropriate for us to do so. We are encouraged by how much students have been involved in the decision making processes at their university or college in relation to the pandemic, and by the ongoing work of Students’ Unions to support their members, such as sharing wellbeing advice, creating online support communities, volunteering and running fundraising initiatives. We will continue to have these conversations to make sure we understand the priority areas for students and how we can best support them and make sure their voice continues to be heard at the highest level of their institution.
We are proactively working with the providers that we regulate and fund in Wales, and with Universities Wales, to ensure that the interests of students are protected and that action is being taken at every level so that students can complete their studies this year. We will shortly be publishing a list of actions that we are taking in relation to our regulatory role, which will help to ensure this happens.
We know that it’s not just about the ability to access learning in a different way, but also the disruption to personal relationships (such an important part of a higher education experience, whether campus-based or delivered online), that is having an impact on people’s lives. We are all learning to connect in new and different ways, which may have a longer term impact on what the higher education experience looks like.
Going forward, we will be working to understand the impact of the pandemic on the student voice and what else we can do to make sure that students’ experiences continue to be recognised and valued. In the meantime, we would encourage any student who is feeling isolated or just in need of some support, to reach out to their Students’ Union or personal tutor. They are here for you.
Nicola Hunt, Senior Student Experience Manager