University promises – it promises students a promising future, as well as a heady concoction of fun, friendship, beer, mistakes, cheese on toast, and accomplishments. The £9k pact is for both the education and the rite of passage; otherwise, the movie-esque fantasy of student life cannot be sustained.

University also promises debt, though best left unthought until graduation, so you better get your money’s worth. All these promises are some of the reasons why for the last year, many students have been dissatisfied with their uni experience and with what universities had promised it would be, even during a global pandemic.

#studentlife during the pandemic

Uncovering what student life is like during the pandemic, Love Energy Savings spoke to 1,023 students. They found that the usual challenges and stresses persist; however, there are additional anxieties over the future.

One student described his experience as feeling "simultaneously suffocated and disconnected" due to the workload, financial demands, and also because university life has been put on hold. Another student similarly said: "I'm spending money on rent that I can't really afford, and I'm miserable not being able to see any friends."

Many students reported feeling neglected both by Government policy and by their university, with many moving into halls for the first time in September of last year only to be locked in and for classes to move solely online. A student summarised this situation perfectly: "Some courses have one contact hour a week, yet students are paying £9,250 a year for their education. The Government should be ashamed of themselves.”

Not only feeling the strain of being isolated from the wider community, but numerous students are also struggling with the financial pressure of being at university without the safety net of part-time jobs. Several students replied to the survey highlighting the impact that economic insecurity is having on their mental health.

One student said: “No government support means everyone in the house I live in is slowly sinking into a worse and worse mental state, with no way of making money due to no jobs being available."

Students are also concerned that the minimum amount of Zoom lectures, and contact with their professors, is ill preparing them for work outside the uni bubble. One student described their prospects as “I won't be as qualified as past students, and it will be obvious in the workplace", and another, “many students, like me… do not feel qualified enough due to poor management from universities and the Government."

Getting help

Student Minds, the UK’s national student mental health charity, is using University Mental Health Day (Thursday 4th March) to promote their free online and telephone mental health support service, Student Space. The service is designed specifically to support students during the pandemic, wherever they are with their wellbeing and studies.

Dominic Smithies, Student Voice and Equality Lead, Student Minds, said: “We've been working tirelessly to listen and learn about the experiences of students, advocating on their behalf and championing their voice. We are excited to work with students and staff on Thursday the 4th of March for University Mental Health Day. Although we can’t be together physically, we will come together virtually to inspire conversations, take action and create change. Now more than ever, it's important to get the nation talking about student mental health."