The dilemma faced by students and campuses | Letters

As a UK academic, I think there is one key thing missing from your coverage of the safety of campuses opening up again: universities cannot survive without the revenue generated by students living on campus (Universities should be two-thirds empty to avoid Covid spikes, says expert, 25 September). This is not just about tuition fees; it includes accommodation fees and revenue from student bars, shops and sports centres. Since there is no longer comprehensive government funding for higher education, this is the only way that universities can survive.

For most institutions, cancelling face-to-face teaching would be financial suicide because so many students would not live on campus. The blame for this should be directed at the party currently in government, which is responsible for designing this funding system in the first place and for refusing a comprehensive bail-out of universities that would allow them to cancel face-to-face teaching for the year and allow students to stay at home.
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Prof John Ashton argues that students do not adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions very well. The reason, he says, is that they would think “why bother?” because their trust has been broken by the Dominic Cummings affair.

As a student myself, I don’t believe this is the case. I try my best with the restrictions, which prevent me from receiving any form of in-person education, have me quarantining for 14 days because I come from abroad, and make it impossible to meet new people. Undoubtedly, there are some people who actually think “why bother?”, but I have not come across any.

What Prof Ashton also seems to forget is that students make up a significant proportion of the group of people who have to deal with the recession that is already here and will likely get worse. Allowing students to remain in education and in halls is therefore a necessity in order to equip them for the monstrous task that awaits them.

Right now, I am in quarantine. Despite the amazing efforts of my college, this is hard. But I stay inside, because I care about society. One of the things that is best about it though, is the access to education. I do not want to come out of isolation only to find that carelessly thrown away.
Lotte Hondebrink
PhD student, University of Cambridge

What is most striking about the difference of opinion between what the universities are doing in opening campuses for partial face-to-face teaching, and the trade union’s objection to it (Report, 25 September) is the one-size-fits-all mantra they both appear to be locked into. A more sensible approach is to call back to campus only the students on courses that require laboratory-based teaching or those who have specific difficulties in learning from home. If we taught the remaining students online, the density on campuses will be about a quarter of their usual capacity and everyone could be safe.
Prof Mahesan Niranjan
University of Southampton

We live near Canterbury, a relatively small city compared with, say, Manchester, but we have roughly as many students here in term time as locals. I can’t be the only local resident who’s annoyed by the media’s assumption that all students live in halls “on campus”. There are a great number of privately owned rented student “houses” in the city, where students live cheek-by-jowl with local families. Addressing their contact with other residents must be difficult to control.
Margaret Gabbe


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