Students

Students Must Wait Until September to Find Out Whether They Need Proof of Vaccination to Go to University, Says Dominic Raab

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has admitted that the Government is “coaxing and cajoling” young Brits into getting vaccinated against Covid with plans to introduce vaccine passports at nightclubs and other “large venues”, but warned that students will have to wait for months to find out whether they need to be fully vaccinated to attend university lectures and to live in halls.

Given that Raab says “these decisions will be taken in September”, the month in which the university term starts, it is hard to see how students will have any “advance warning” of vaccine status checks, as he suggests they will. BBC News has more.

Mr Raab was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the Government was in favour of going further and making the vaccine pass compulsory in more settings.

“I think the key principle is in crowded places where we want to open up… whether it’s going to a football game or pop concert, we want to make sure people can do that,” he said.

And asked whether they were planning to require students in university halls to get vaccinated, Mr Raab said: “When we come to the crunch, these decisions will be taken in September. We’ve got some time to go.

“Right the way through this pandemic we’ve had to take advice and decisions based on the evidence when we see it.

“We will certainly make sure university students have advance warning, of course we’re going to be mindful of this.”

He said he had recently visited France, where they had a big surge in vaccinations after bringing in a health pass for many activities.

“It’s a little bit of coaxing and cajoling and also making clear that ultimately over September when we know we’ll see, as a result of coming out of the lockdown step four, an increase in cases, we can control that with backstop safeguard measures.”

Latest Government figures show that more than 71% of adults have now had two jabs, while 88% have had a first dose.

Young people who are within three months of turning 18 – meaning those who are soon able to go to university – and those aged 12-17 who live with people who have a suppressed immune system, can now also get a jab.

The idea to make vaccines compulsory for university students was not ruled out by either education minister Vicky Ford or Downing Street when asked about it earlier this week.

“We are still looking at the scope for vaccination certifications,” the Number 10 spokesman said on Monday.

Earlier this week, the trade union for academic staff such as lecturers, criticised the idea following news reports.

“Students should be prioritised for vaccinations, to ensure as many as possible have the opportunity to be vaccinated by September,” said the University and College Union.

“But making vaccinations compulsory as a condition to access their education is wrong and would be hugely discriminatory against those who are unable to be vaccinated, and international students.”

Worth reading in full.

Lecturers’ Union Calls for Full Vaccination of All Students by September and Continuation of Mask-Wearing on Campus

The University and College Union (UCU) remains unconvinced that it is safe for university life to return to normal and has urged the Education Secretary to see that all students are fully vaccinated by September. It is also demanding that universities continue to impose mask mandates on campus. The Guardian has the story.

The UCU has written to… Gavin Williamson, warning that the Covid chaos seen in universities last year will be repeated unless strict measures are in place to protect staff and students.

The union wants all students to be double vaccinated before the start of term in September, with jabs made available to younger students in further education once approved by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation.

It is also calling on universities to “provide and mandate” the wearing of high-quality face masks by both staff and students, access to free PCR tests, and funding from the Government to support education recovery.

It wants robust health and safety risk assessments ahead of the new academic year, modifications to buildings to improve ventilation, measures to allow for effective social distancing, and improved mental health provision for students. …

The UCU described the dropping of social distancing and mask-wearing in England, and the reopening of nightclubs, as “reckless” and a “recipe for disaster”.

The letter to the Education Secretary said: “Last year, ministers green-lit the mass movement of students across the country and failed to recognise the effect this would have on infections, on those working and studying in the sector, and on the wider communities of which they become a part.

“As the Westminster Government removes all restrictions and the associated public health guidance, there is a real danger that unless we learn key lessons from last year, our education settings become incubators for Covid all over again.” Letters have also been sent to the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland executive.

Covid jabs have been approved for young people up to three months before their 18th birthday, but the UCU says students should be treated as a priority group to ensure they are fully vaccinated before September, in time for the start of term. …

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We strongly encourage all students to take up the offer of both vaccine doses as soon as they become eligible. We also recommend that face coverings are worn in enclosed and crowded spaces where people may come into contact with people they do not normally meet, or in the event of a local outbreak.”

Some universities will not need any persuading. Students at the University of Oxford, for example, have been told that rules on mask-wearing and social distancing will remain unchanged, despite the passing of ‘Freedom Day’.

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

Cancelled Job Offers Prompt Recent University Graduates to Enrol on Masters Programmes

With many work placements and internships cancelled last year due to lockdown, and a good deal of employers not bothering to get back to failed applicants, thousands of recent university graduates have rushed to study “panic masters” courses. The Observer has the story.

Universities including UCL, Cambridge and Edinburgh, told the Observer they were seeing substantial increases, ranging between 10 and 20%, in the number of U.K. students applying to study for postgraduate degrees in the autumn.

Mary Curnock Cook, an admissions expert who is chairing an independent commission on students, said the rise is due to “a collapse in confidence in the graduate employment market”. There is a backlog of applications from graduates who struggled to secure roles last year or whose placements were cancelled, she said.

“That’s what’s causing this idea of the panic master’s,” she said. “A lot of what I’m hearing is people getting stressed about making tons of applications and not even getting acknowledgement. It’s a stain on employers that they’re not treating their applicants with common courtesy.”

Curnock Cook added that while master’s degrees are usually worthwhile investments since they are favoured by many employers and result in higher average salaries, she advised against “making decisions in a rush for the wrong reasons”, particularly since loans available for postgraduate study does not cover living expenses.

Dan Barcroft, Head of Admissions at Sheffield University, said postgrad study has been especially popular among undergraduates planning to remain at the university, with application numbers rising by 35%. “People are choosing to stay in education at a time of economic turbulence,” he said. …

Last year top graduate employers cut vacancies by nearly a half, although some jobs have been reinstated this year. There are particular shortages of entry-level roles in the industries that have been worst affected by the pandemic, including travel, hospitality and retail.

recent survey of more than 2,000 students by advice service Prospects showed that over a third of university finalists are changing their career plans due to the pandemic, while two-thirds who are planning postgraduate study are choosing to do so to switch career path.

Nearly half of university students said they felt unprepared for the job market, citing a lack of experience, vacancies and their skills as the main barriers. 

Worth reading in full.

University Students Demand Reduction in Tuition Fees Due to Loss of Learning During Lockdowns

A group of 17 university students’ unions have called for a 30% reduction in their tuition fees (worth £2,700) to compensate for the loss of education caused by the Government’s lockdowns. They are willing to accept higher interest rates on their loans in exchange for this discount. The Guardian has the story.

[The group,] led by the London School of Economics and the University of Sheffield, [has] written to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, to propose that the Government funds a 30% tuition fee rebate for all students this year by increasing interest rates by 3% to 6.2%, meaning it would be repaid only by the highest earning graduates.

The letter stated: “We are asking for immediate financial justice for Covid-affected cohorts of university students. In an ideal world, education should be free; however, in a year when students are calling for compensation on their fees, we have created a fiscally neutral solution to adjust tuition fees, supporting students with a one-off payment.”

The student leaders, who are all from research universities in the Russell Group, based their calculations on modelling from the London Economics consultancy. It suggested that increasing the interest rate on student loans would mean that the £1 billion cost of the 30% rebate would be paid for by high-earning graduates, because loans are written off after 30 years, rather than the taxpayer or graduates on low incomes.

The average male graduate would pay £6,500 more in loan repayments over their lifetime, with the very highest earners paying up to £29,800 more, but female graduates on average salaries could repay the same amount because their lifetime earnings are lower.

The pandemic meant most students were barred from their campuses from the end of the autumn term until May 17th, so they missed out on in-person teaching, access to facilities such as libraries, and social and extracurricular activities. Many were frustrated to find themselves unable to access rooms in halls of residence and flats they had already paid for…

Some students have voiced their anger with universities this year through rent strikes, building occupations and socially-distanced protests…

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Universities have a strong track record in delivering excellent blended tuition, and we have been clear from the start of the pandemic that the quality and quantity should not drop.

“The Office for Students will be monitoring to ensure this is the case, and universities should be open about what students can expect.”

Another letter sent by a group of 19 students’ unions told the competitions watchdog in April that students have been “mis-sold” degrees. They demanded tuition fee refunds. Prior to this, the Government responded to a petition asking for a reduction in fees saying: “[We are] not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000.”

The Guardian report is worth reading in full.

American Universities Order Students to Take Covid Vaccine before Returning to Classes

A number of American universities have announced that they will require their staff and students to be vaccinated against Covid before being permitted to return to campuses this autumn. MailOnline has the story.

Several state university systems will require all students returning to classes and campuses this fall to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

A number of state and public institutions have made the announcement in the past week as they hope to get back to normal campus life after months of online learning.

Similar measures have been announced by some private institutions, but with the policy of requiring Covid vaccinations expanding into state and public school systems, the number of universities with the requirement has risen significantly.

Some private universities – including Brown, Cornell and Stanford – have announced similar requirements, and will be joined by California’s two state university systems, as well as several universities in New York, Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey.

Thursday’s joint announcement from the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University represented the largest of its kind in American higher education…

Including private universities, at least 80 have announced their intention to make vaccines mandatory to their students in order for them to return to campus, according to a count by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But others have said outright that they will not require their students to be vaccinated. Republican Governors in Utah, Texas, Florida and Montana have signed orders banning institutions from requiring vaccines. 

According to Forbes, it is currently unclear how state executive orders banning Covid vaccine passports – such as that recently signed in Texas – will affect universities wishing to force their students to get vaccinated. Should the bans on unvaccinated students go ahead, it is expected that some exemptions “based on sincerely held religious views and medical conditions” will apply. Forbes has published a list of institutions that have said they will require staff and students to be vaccinated before they reopen.

MailOnline‘s report is worth reading in full.

Durham University Introduces Covid Status Certificates

A reader has been in touch to tell us that a Covid certification scheme has been introduced at Durham University, where her son is a first-year student. As she asks, is this even legal?

Elder son, First Year student at Durham University, returned on Sunday for summer term. He has been told he needs to do two lateral flow tests per week and must have a negative email confirmation on his phone in order to do “any university activity”. This means that if he wants to participate in the life of the university, as opposed to stay cooped up in his tiny dorm room 24/7, Covid testing is mandatory.

Is this even legal?

He was also told his term has also been extended by one week, into early July, for the “wider university experience”. (Joke.) Is this so the university can broaden its new scheme to include evidence students have been vaccinated in time for when the roll out hits 18 to 30 year-olds? Presumably, the authorities at Durham don’t care that the risks of getting vaccinated outweigh the risks of not being vaccinated for people in his age group.

This academic year he will have had zero face-to-face teaching. There has been no announcement at all about the 2021/22 academic year teaching arrangements, apart from to confirm that maximum fees will be charges, as they were this year. But of course.

I cannot understand why universities, with all their fine minds, are supporting this nonsensical testing regime. Don’t the medical professors read the data on the false positive rates for lateral flow tests? To me, universities have been complicit in damaging UK further education, as well as the health of their communities.

My poor 19 year-old son is desperate to have a more “normal” life again. He could very easily be coerced into doing almost anything to achieve that and will get vaccinated if it means he can get back to university sport and some socialising. This is the second year of woeful education for him, having had his A-levels cancelled in 2020. It fills me with despair.

Students Appeal to Competition and Markets Authority Over Tuition Fees

Students’ unions have told the competitions watchdog that they have been “mis-sold” degrees as they demand blanket tuition fee refunds. Camilla Turner, the Telegraph‘s Education Correspondent, has the story.

A group of students’ unions have written to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), urging it to “take action to uphold students’ rights” over tuition fees and rent payments amid the pandemic.

The open letter, backed by student leaders at 19 universities across the UK, calls on the regulator to help students asking for blanket fee refunds as a result of COVID-19 disruption.

It urges the regulator to “explain to students how they can prove that the ‘quality’ of their course has not met the required standards for full tuition”.

The letter goes on to say: “Nobody understands what the Government means by poor quality courses, and the language seems to blame the academics delivering courses for lost education when it is the unavoidable result of the pandemic and ‘blended learning’ being mis-sold by universities.”

The student representative also asked the CMA to address the “broken” complaints process for students claiming refunds, and help advise students on their ability to withhold fee payments “if they have lost out” due to the pandemic.

The letter, which has been signed by students leaders from Oxford, Cambridge and a number of other Russell Group universities, says: “Students need an external organisation with no vested interest other than upholding students’ rights to step in and give them the power to seek collective fee justice.

The CMA must act now.” The plea came after the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed that all remaining students in England will not be allowed to return to in-person lessons on campus until mid-May at the earliest.

Most students in England, apart from those on critical courses, were told not to return to campus as part of the lockdown announced in January.

It is estimated that around half of university students in England are not eligible to return to campus for in-person teaching until May 17th at the earliest.

Worth reading in full.

University Students Increasingly Frustrated by Having to Pay Full Fees in Spite of No Face-to-Face Tuition For Best Part of a Year

University students should not be charged their full fees because of the level of disruption caused to learning by almost a year of heavy lockdown restrictions, according to a group of students who are calling for a “day of action” to highlight the matter. An online petition calling for tuition fees to be reduced has received almost 600,000 signatures. BBC News has the story.

A group of university students are calling for a day of action to demand fee refunds because of how Covid has affected their learning experience.

The Write Off, Right Now (WORN) group, led by three University of Bristol students, wants April 16th to be used to apply pressure to the Government.

It said online learning did not provide the same value for money and students should not be charged their full fees.

The Government has previously said fees must be paid in full for remote study…

WORN is encouraging students across the country to “take over” social media on April 16th to spread the message about what they say is an unfair decision to charge full fees for those studying remotely during lockdown, when in-person classes have been banned.

An online petition, calling for tuition fees to be cut from £9,250 to £3,000, has now received more than 580,000 signatures. 

And while the National Union of Students has not called for tuition fee rebates, or a reduction in fees, it is pressing for the creation of hardship funds to be large enough to meet demand.

Student and WORN campaign leader Lianna Denwood said it was time for the government to “take ownership” of the situation and recognise students “haven’t been provided with the education they were sold”.

One of WORN’s leading members, Scott Weavers, has said that it would be “morally unfair” for students to be forced to pay their tuition fees in full.

We were promised when we signed up for university that we would receive sufficient access to facilities, course equipment and social contact to help us achieve our degrees.

This year we have acquired anything but that standard, and yet we’re still expected to pay full price.

The onus, they say, is on the Government to “help students” since universities “do not have the financial ability to compensate their entire student population”.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The petition to reduce university student tuition fees from £9,250 to £3,000 has received a response from the Government. No prizes for those who guessed that this reduction is not under consideration!

Tuition fee levels must represent value for money and ensure that universities are properly funded. Government is not considering a reduction in maximum fee levels to £3,000.

Read the full response here.

Isn’t it About Time We Gave Students a Break?

We’re publishing a terrific piece today by Dr John Fanning, a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool, about the authorities’ heavy-handed treatment of students in Liverpool’s Sefton Park last week. He has every sympathy for these students wanting to have a bit of fun in the sun after being cooped up like rabbits for the best part of a year. But others felt differently.

Naturally, the fun police – by which I mean Merseyside Police – were soon on the case. Dozens of officers alighted from the sort of heavy-duty police vans one might expect to see after a gangland shooting and strode purposefully into the park. They issued more than 40 fines for breaches of the coronavirus regulations, accusing at least one group of students of being part of an ‘organised festival’ before ordering them to pay a £100 fine, which will rise to £200 if unpaid after 14 days. Merseyside Police announced that it “will not tolerate irresponsible individuals” and issued a dispersal order covering a large area of south Liverpool. In a statement tinged with the sort of moral superiority that should have no place in modern policing, Superintendent Mark Wiggins said: “Unfortunately there are people who believe that the rules the rest of us abide by are not for them. We are here to protect our communities”. We can all sleep soundly in our beds, then.

The fallout from this episode is astonishing. I do not use Twitter and I seldom look at comments posted beneath news articles – there be dragons, etc. – but a brief survey of the Liverpool Echo’s website and Twitter this weekend was enough to make me lose any remaining faith I had in humanity. The students were described as a “shower of tramps”, “selfish little rats”, and “idiots” and urged – with a revolting civic nativism – to “Go back home to [their] own cities”. “They’re going to start another wave of the virus with their stupidity”, declared one of many armchair epidemiologists who weighed in with his considered view; “Water-cannon the lot of them”, suggested another.

Worth reading in full.

Isn’t it About Time We Gave Students a Break?

by Dr John Fanning

Students gather in Liverpool’s Sefton Park

On Wednesday March 17th, a large crowd of people – many presumed to be students – gathered in Liverpool’s Sefton Park to enjoy the spring sunshine. A 40-second video recorded in the park that afternoon captures a wonderful vista of youthful exuberance. Under a beautiful blue Merseyside sky and against the green-tinged backdrop of budding trees, what could easily be a thousand young people are seen congregating closely together. Many are wearing green, presumably to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and Liverpool’s (and perhaps their own) proud Irish heritage. It is a vision of spring; a picture of hope and renewal, of optimism and fearlessness. The recording captures people standing and talking excitedly, scurrying through the crowd searching for their friends, dancing to the tinny beat of music from an unseen speaker, and sitting on picnic blankets and swigging from cans of lager. Two men pushing bikes walk into the frame; in the distance, people are playing catch. It is a joyous scene of fun and friendship. And almost everyone in it was breaking the law.

Naturally, the fun police – by which I mean Merseyside Police – were soon on the case. Dozens of officers alighted from the sort of heavy-duty police vans one might expect to see after a gangland shooting and strode purposefully into the park. They issued more than 40 fines for breaches of the coronavirus regulations, accusing at least one group of students of being part of an ‘organised festival’ before ordering them to pay a £100 fine, which will rise to £200 if unpaid after 14 days. Merseyside Police announced that it “will not tolerate irresponsible individuals” and issued a dispersal order covering a large area of south Liverpool. In a statement tinged with the sort of moral superiority that should have no place in modern policing, Superintendent Mark Wiggins said: “Unfortunately there are people who believe that the rules the rest of us abide by are not for them. We are here to protect our communities”. We can all sleep soundly in our beds, then.

The fallout from this episode is astonishing. I do not use Twitter and I seldom look at comments posted beneath news articles – there be dragons, etc. – but a brief survey of the Liverpool Echo’s website and Twitter this weekend was enough to make me lose any remaining faith I had in humanity. The students were described as a “shower of tramps”, “selfish little rats”, and “idiots” and urged – with a revolting civic nativism – to “Go back home to [their] own cities”. “They’re going to start another wave of the virus with their stupidity”, declared one of many armchair epidemiologists who weighed in with his considered view; “Water-cannon the lot of them”, suggested another.

If you were to read these comments out of context, you would be forgiven for thinking that they referenced a story about a riot or a violent protest – not a peaceful afternoon in the park. It is true that many people objected to the litter that the crowds left behind – which, to be fair, is terrible form – but this is not the first time Sefton Park has been strewn with rubbish on a sunny day and it was not the reason for the fines. It is a grim sign of how far we have travelled down the road towards authoritarianism that so many people think that young people enjoying an afternoon in the park deserve to be arrested, subject to crippling fines, water-cannoned, booted off their degree programmes, and so on. It is bad enough that anyone should think this way; that it should be people from Liverpool – a city famous for regularly cocking a snook at Westminster – demanding unquestioning compliance with Government guidelines under pain of the full coercive might of the state catapults us well-and-truly through the looking-glass.

But the most troubling statement of all came from the vice-chancellors of the city’s four principal higher education institutions: the University of Liverpool (Professor Dame Janet Beer), Liverpool John Moores University (Professor Ian Campbell), Liverpool Hope University (Professor Gerald Pillay) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (Professor David Lalloo). In it, they said that they were “appalled” by the “reckless actions of those who gathered in Sefton Park” and reminded their student communities of their “crucial responsibility” to observe Government guidelines. To be clear, that would be the chief executive officers of the city’s universities describing the normal behaviour of people it is reasonable to assume are their students as “appalling”. Reflect on that for a moment.

It is sadly true that at least some of those who gathered in Sefton Park this week probably did break the law. The current rules prohibit “participation in outdoor gatherings”, which they define as assemblies of “more than two people” (paragraph 4 of Schedule 3A to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers) (England) Regulations 2020). It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the people in the video fell foul of this rule.

Yet one exception to this is where the people in the gathering “are members of the same household” (paragraph 6 of Schedule 3A). Given that it is common for students to live in shared houses of multiple occupation, it is possible that their “household” might comprise a large number of people. For that reason, a group of, say, a dozen students might lawfully gather to enjoy “outdoor recreation” in a public place because they happen to live together (paragraph 2 of Schedule 3A). And there is nothing to stop a number of student households just happening to be in the park at the same time. It is worth remembering that people tend to go to public parks on sunny days and Sefton Park is on the edge of an area populated by students, so this sort of thing is not difficult to imagine. If a household of 12 Law students happens to be in the park at the same time as a separate household of 12 History students, then, as long as they do not converge, 24 students could lawfully be in the park. You can expand this example to include other households too; e.g., 12 Medics, 12 Sociologists, 12 Engineers, and so on. The rules do not specify how far apart the household groups in this example would have to be from each other. In an unrelated context, the rules prohibit anyone at a gathering for communal worship from “mingling” with someone who is not a member of their household (paragraph 9 of Schedule 3A). I cannot say with any certainty what would constitute unlawful ‘mingling’ – as far as I know, it is a novel concept in the law. If it applies to my example, the 12 Law students and 12 History students can sit in separate household groupings. But if one of the Historians walks over to the group of Lawyers to ask if she/he can borrow a bottle-opener, then Merseyside’s finest can storm in before anyone else is put at risk of contracting a respiratory illness from which she/he will almost certainly recover by such “irresponsible” behaviour.

What laughable, despotic nonsense. In one of his recent barnstorming interviews, Jonathan Sumption, the former Supreme Court justice, predicted that “if the Government persists long enough with locking people down, civil disobedience is likely to be the result”. Not only that, but civil disobedience may be the most ‘public-spirited’ thing one can do in the face of despotic laws such as these. Some laws, he said, “invite breach”; lockdown is one of them. Not for the first time, I agree with Lord Sumption. The students in Sefton Park have highlighted the cruel absurdity of the rules and – as if anyone needed reminding – drawn attention to the heavy-handed policing that enforces them.

Instead of announcing how “appalled” they were, perhaps the city’s vice-chancellors could have employed their considerable influence to urge the Government to hasten the end of the lockdown? Or maybe they could have gone into bat for their students by asking Merseyside Police to show some common sense and cancel the fines? These young people have had their whole lives upended by the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Far from being “appalling”, their act of civil disobedience may well make them the vanguards of the restoration of our liberty. Fair play to them.

It is worth taking a moment to reflect on the raw deal that university students have had over the past twelve months. For more than a year, their entire higher education experience has been subject to unprecedented disruption. Most students must engage with their degree programmes remotely, listening to lecture recordings or logging into Zoom or Teams to ‘attend’ seminars. Since Christmas, many have had to do this from their family homes, often hundreds of miles away from the campus on which they originally chose to spend three or four years of their lives. Whether they are on campus or not, they have missed out on everything that enriches the student experience. Coffee rendezvous with classmates before a lecture, and the sly pint afterwards. The chance to broaden their intellectual and spiritual horizons through exposure to new and challenging ideas. The opportunity to play competitive sport or use gym facilities. To explore the library – or at least find out where it is for future reference. To join a student society. To do work experience or take a part-time job. To go on chaotic nights out that they will later struggle to recall. To discover the unadulterated pleasure of chips, cheese and gravy after a heavy one. To explore local museums and galleries. To date and make friends. To explore their sexuality. To take drugs and regret it. To learn what it is like to live with other people. Most importantly, to find themselves – to learn what makes them tick, to take risks and make mistakes, to gain a wisdom that will serve them all the days of their lives.

Instead of all this, students have been imprisoned in accommodation blocks surrounded by metal fences and patrolled by private security guards, subject to a battery of testing for COVID-19 (the symptoms of which are remarkably reminiscent of ‘freshers’ flu’), and made to carry the can in some quarters for the second national lockdown. They have been urged by the Health Secretary not to “kill their grannies” – a plea that is as morally barren as it is legally illiterate – and forced to isolate lest they spread or catch a viral illness that will almost certainly not do them any lasting damage. Many students are now suffering from the agony of mental health problems as they struggle to meet the demands of their courses against the ongoing saga of lockdown. Many more will have incurred substantial financial losses they may struggle to recover; some will be at the mercy of landlords demanding rent payments for accommodation they have been unable to occupy. And now some students are learning that they ‘appal’ their university leaders. The entire student experience has been criminalised and debased.

And for what? Students are at the lowest risk of dying of coronavirus disease. Those graduating this year will enter the most uncertain jobs market in living memory. They will become the ‘Covid generation’; graduates with asterisk degrees and well-rehearsed pleas for special dispensation. Even casual work in the service industry may still be closed to them. Likely to be denied the opportunity to travel or work overseas for the foreseeable future, they will have vanishingly few options at home and a mountain of debt to repay. And even those with a year or more still to go are likely to have vastly different university experiences from all the cohorts that preceded them. And it’ll cost them the same.

There is a lot that is “appalling” about this – and it isn’t the students.

Dr John Fanning is a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Liverpool.