79% of college students said that they feel that the government is not doing enough to support them during the pandemic, according to a recent study of over 1,000 students. 64% of students who were meant to sit their Leaving Certificate this year felt similarly.
The study reports that there is a lack of enthusiasm amongst sixth year students about beginning college. Only 21% of the students surveyed expressed any level of excitement about it. College students indicated that they are aware that their social lives will be negatively affected this year as they recognised that there will be less opportunities to make friends, enjoy extracurricular activities and socialise.
On the 7th of August, the UCD Registrar and Vice President confirmed in an email to students that undergraduate students will be in classrooms for 30-70% of their normal schedule whereas graduate students will have 20-86% of normal class time. This has been made possible by a new regulation that requires students to wear a mask if they are seated less than two metres from another student.
Nearly 60% of college students found the process of studying and completing exams online challenging but it is clear that many students will have to complete most of their coursework online this year.
The study confirmed that the mental health of students has suffered during this pandemic. According to the survey, students tried to relieve their stress by exercising, talking with family and friends, meditating, comfort eating and reading.
Aisling O’Grady, the Head of the UCD Student Advisory Service, told The College Tribune that she was delighted that the “Minister for Higher Education (Simon Harris) has made available additional funds to support students impacted by the pandemic.”
O’Grady said that the Student Advisers continued to be available on an ongoing basis since the pandemic and this will be no different in the new academic year. She said as the student advisers recognised students were facing particularly challenging and difficult circumstances, they increased the channels through which students may contact them.
A student about to begin a Master’s degree at UCD told The College Tribune that although she was excited to study what she loves, she did agree that the government was not doing enough. She was mainly dissatisfied with the government’s decision to maintain the same college fees although students will not be on-campus nearly as much. She felt that UCD was not supportive of students who want lower fees as a result of financial difficulties post-pandemic.
Ruairí Power, UCDSU Welfare Officer, told The Tribune that “[we] are currently preparing a proposal for a university-wide mental health strategy to be developed in addition to the current mental health policy”. He has called for a socially-distant counselling service and noted that the UCD counselling service has continued to operate a phone service while restrictions are in place. He also talked about setting up a Mental Health Advisory Committee and adapting “a joined-up approach to student supports, a comprehensive communications policy and robust infrastructure in place to meet student’s needs.”
He concluded by saying: “The university’s approach must be guided by evidence-based policy and we look forward to engaging with management on this issue.”
Brigid Molloy – Reporter
Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter