Yesterday evening, as part of the student advisory panel to the Office for Students (OfS), Francesco, our SU President, went along to a meeting with Michelle Donelan MP, the Universities Minister. This was a key chance to represent the voices of students in Bath and highlight the struggles faced by students on a local and national level.
Students in Higher Education institutions have been consistently overlooked in this pandemic, and have only been mentioned when someone needed to be blamed. Working in Students’ Unions, we are all acutely aware of how much this pandemic has affected our students, their mental health, and the quality of their learning. We also cannot forget how the pandemic has heightened pre-existing inequalities and affected the hardest those among us who are already disadvantaged because of their background.
At the meeting, we raised the key issues that our students have been telling us since the start of the academic year and, indeed, the pandemic. We highlighted the fundamental need to urgently fund mental health support for students, who are facing unprecedented challenges in terms of anxiety and loneliness. We strongly urged the Government to take steps on financially support students directly and universities so that they can appropriately aid their communities directly.
Over the past few weeks, in particular, we have also seen how University students always seem to be an afterthought in key government communications and announcements. This has caused huge dismay and confusion. It is avoidable and we strongly urged the Minister to ensure that university students are talked about and addressed in the same way that other students, and indeed all sections of the population, should be.
Of course, there is so much that we are unhappy about, and we were clear with the Minister on that. The discussion provided with a lot of direct testimonies and suggestions on how this government can improve the way it supports students in Higher Education, and we hope that this brings about positive changes shortly.