When Covid-19 began to sweep across the UK in March, King’s students were told to return home, with all further academic activity to be held online. Following the recent announcement that campus would be re-opening in September, many students both in London and abroad were faced with a difficult choice.
The announcement, made by senior King’s administrators in June, explained that modules would be held via a blend on online and on-campus teaching methods until at least January 2021. Despite this, campus facilities would be re-opened in a limited capacity, and smaller sessions such as seminars, tutorials, and laboratory sessions would continue in-person alongside their online variants.
In an open poll, Roar asked 147 King’s students about their plans for the upcoming academic year. Of those 147, 76.9% said that they were either already in London or intended to return before the start of first term. Of the rest, 6.8% told Roar they plan to return at some point during Term 1. The remaining 16.3% either plan to return during Term 2, are temporarily deferring their degree, or have made other plans.
Just over half of the responses received stemmed from UK Home students, with the remaining 47.6% hailing from other countries. The majority of those questioned are entering their second year at King’s, with their intentions largely mirroring the overall survey results. Notably, of the 44 incoming Freshers queried by Roar, 37 are planning on studying in London from the beginning of Term 1, making that year the most unanimous of the three.
Students were also asked about the reasoning behind their intent, with responses varying drastically. Some students were vehement in their wish to return to London; Phoebus Kyriakoudis, a Music student at King’s, told Roar: “As a music student, and in particular a pianist, my wonderful experience at King’s so far owes a great deal to the musical resources I’ve been able to access within the college grounds, namely pianos and rehearsal spaces, as well as the collection of music scores, recordings, and CDs at Maughan Library.”
The incoming second-year told us his end-of-year assignments were hindered by the “substandard resources” he had access to after returning home, stating: “I had to work on and submit my end-of-year performance recital on my old, aggressively mediocre piano. I was frantically searching my music book library at home and any online database I could get my hands on. […] I am really looking forward to getting to play on those amazing grand pianos the music department has to offer, as well as continuing my research with the help of the Maughan Library, so I can enter my second year with a positive and confident mindset.”
Another King’s student, Bombita Andreea, told Roar: “I feel like King’s is taking efficient measures on campus and in residences to ensure safety and stop the spread of Covid-19 – something I wouldn’t be able to say about my hometown. The work environment in London is also suited to my work ethic. There are so many career options and so many different opportunities!” On how the pandemic has affected her plans and expectations for the upcoming academic year, Bombita stated: “I learnt the value of being face-to-face with a lecturer, and to improve my study skills so I can make the most of any university experience regardless of circumstance.”
A third student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Roar they are returning for Term 1 in order to maintain their Pre-Settled Status within the UK – and they are certainly not alone. With many students having left the country in March, the 6-month period after which said status lapses is rapidly approaching for many EU-national King’s students. EU students who have not yet begun their studies are also faced with increased fees should they choose to defer their degree by a year, forcing the decision for many.
Some students were not so keen to return to King’s, however. One anonymous student telling Roar it would be an “absolute waste of money for me to travel back to London when all my classes are online for Term 1.” Another student echoed this sentiment, saying they wouldn’t be returning as the result of “uncertainty due to the possibility of a second Covid wave, with London very densely populated and the UK having as many cases as it does.”
Others are simply unable to return due to restrictions in their home countries. Parthiva Bhaumik, who plans to return to King’s by October 31, told Roar: “Flights are suspended in India until August 31, due to which I won’t be able to start live classes until October. I am still uncertain about further restrictions of international flights from India.” With the UK recently imposing quarantine restrictions on those travelling from France, and with cases rising in places such as Hong Kong, further restrictions could be just around the corner.