As lockdown began, the Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan reassured students, contrary to other advice coming from the government (!), that universities should carry on with in-person teaching.
Meanwhile many students have voted with their feet, opting to return to parental homes to study online. Can students win what they need to rescue their academic year from university management incompetence?
On Tuesday 17 November, as part of a week of action, the National Union of Students (NUS) plans a series of online “Town Hall” meetings with local MPs, to publicise their #studentsdeservebetter demands (no further details yet).
Some local campaigns have been much more visible and energetic. Bristol students continue their rent strike, pursuing demands for a right to move out of halls, 30% rent rebate for those who stay in halls, adequate food for those isolating, access to outdoor space, and increased mental health support.
It is expected further student rent strikes will take place around the UK in January when further installments of rent fall due.
Local disputes by higher education workers would encourage student action, and vice versa, but while there has been a lot of push back against university managements, and some formal disputes have begun, we are unlikely to see much action before Christmas. The IWGB union have begun a dispute against the suspension of a security officer, Kingsley, at Greenwich University.
Meanwhile, according to Unis Resist Border Controls, hundreds of Tier 4 international students are being chucked off their courses because they cannot pay tuition fees.
The focus now shifts to next term. Two large migrations of students away and then back to university risk making the Covid situation worse. Both NUS and the Higher Education unions need to step up their action: for an industrial campaign of ballots on workload and health and safety to force the safer option of online where possible in January; for a stronger co-ordination of campaigns, including rent strikes, for the demands such as those being pursued by Bristol strikers.