'We can't carry on as normal' - Sheffield Hallam psychology students call for more support during coronavirus outbreak

A frustrated group of students who say they feel “abandoned, hopeless, disheartened, helpless and unheard”, have called for more support from Sheffield Hallam University.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Monday, 6th April 2020, 10:54 pm

The psychology students, who are in the midst of their third and final year of study, opened up about how recent challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, and the University and College Union (UCU) strikes, have affected them both physically and mentally.

Many say they feel “let down” by the way both situations have been dealt with by Sheffield Hallam University, leaving them unsure that they will be able to complete their degree to the best of their abilities given all the disruption.

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Sheffield Hallam University.

One student said the situation has been “confusing and stressful” and the lack of support or guidance from the university is causing them to have anxiety attacks.

They said: “It is having an impact on my motivation to do my work as I feel like I don’t know what I am working towards and if what I am doing is right. The standard stress of final year is being masked by the stress of trying to motivate and self-teach.

“The university and our course staff are acting like we are machines that don’t feel, when we are actually feeling broken and lost, and need time and help to perform our best. If they want us to achieve our best, then they need to step up and give us more time and more support.”

Students missed out on around 14 days of teaching, spread across February and March, after university staff went on strike in a dispute over pay, pensions and workload management.

As of Friday (27 March), there were 286 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Sheffield (Photo by Jane Barlow - WPA Pool/Getty Images).

And, as coronavirus continues to spread across the nation, Sheffield Hallam University and other establishments across the nation have been forced to close with the country currently in lockdown.

Teaching has, where possible, moved from face-to-face to remote and online, and the university says it is trying to maintain the full range of support services upon which its teaching depends.

The psychology students say they simply want their voices to be heard stating they are all “suffering mentally and under great stress”.

They said: “From lack of resources and a lack of support, to having to work, losing our jobs due to pandemic, financial issues, to a change in the work environment, most of us feel like we cannot just carry on as normal.”

One student described the entire final year of study as a “shambles” while others asked the university to consider extending deadlines or to implement more support measures to ensure they do not miss out and can achieve their predicted grades.

"Nothing has been done to help us at this time - six weeks of strike, no teaching, no support, global pandemic and the same is true,” another frustrated student said.

“We all understand none of this can be helped, but what can be helped - particularly where there is a severe lack of government guidance and it is down to the uni themselves - is the absolute lack of support and due consideration for us; as final year psychology students. all talk of things going on behind the scenes, emails ignored, blanket copy and paste emails with no info or help sent to those who dare ask questions and voice their concerns.

“No extra time, no leniency, no consideration, no grade boundary adjustments, no help. £9,500 this year for a couple of weeks of teaching, the rest has been us teaching ourselves entirely, with - now - no access to any of our resources due to the university being shut.

“These grades will make up for everything that happens for the rest of our lives - our post-grad education, our post-grad jobs; and this is not being taken seriously.

“My mental and physical health are absolute dirt right now, I have no motivation, I feel unheard, disregarded. I am absolutely disgusted by their conduct - or here-there lack of."

A Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson said: “This unprecedented situation is a challenge for our student community and we understand concerns about how studies are being impacted.

“Whilst we are taking action to ensure that studies can continue safely, we want to reassure students that the University is committed to no student being academically disadvantaged as a result. We encourage students with concerns to talk to their course leaders and academic support advisors.

“Our dedicated wellbeing support services are available remotely, we have a regularly updated advice page at shu.ac.uk/coronavirus, and the university has opened a Help Centre for any coronavirus related enquiries.”