Class of 2020: What it's like studying for a degree in lockdown

When the UK entered a nation-wide lockdown in March in an attempt to halt the spread of Covid-19, universities and colleges were forced to shut their doors.

This meant an end to a familiar routine so many students have been accustomed to since school age.

There is starting a new class or school in September, the visits home to see family at Christmas, New Year exams, then summer exams before a well-earned break.

But, just because exams have been cancelled, it hasn't meant the end to studying.

Hakima, Laila and Hamdah are studying Law, Pharmacy and Mental Health nursing respectively - and they have all had to continue with coursework and reading while being on lockdown at home.

When asked how they have been coping with this new way of working, they all say in unison, "Too much FaceTime!"

'Netflix parties' - binge-watching box sets together through their phones and computers has become their new way to unwind.

"We've done the Marvel marathon", Hakima and Laila said. "I think we've watched seven so far. Iron Man 3 is on the list for tonight."

The three friends have been helping each other revise during lockdown

While they have been enjoying plenty of virtual down-time, their lectures have continued in a similar fashion over the internet.

Zoom calls have replaced the traditional lecture theatre, a completely new way of learning for thousands of students around the country.

"It was really hard to begin with", Law-student Hakima said. "I had so much coursework and it would have been nice to be able to go in and see my lecturers. I never study at home. I'm either in coffee shops, libraries so I've had to retrain myself to revise."

A recent poll, of students who have applied to a UK university this year, suggests 71% of applicants would support moving the start of their first year of university to a later time if it meant they could have more face-to-face teaching rather than online lessons.

Some face-to-face lectures may eventually return with social distanced measures in place Credit: PA

Many universities have said that face-to-face lectures may not return until next year, and some across the UK are planning to offer a blended learning approach – with a mix of online lessons and face-to-face teaching – when they reopen campuses to students .

Hamdah is studying to be a mental health nurse

Hamdah, was preparing to go on her first placement on a hospital ward as part of her degree in Mental Health Nursing and says she is concerned she will miss out on vital skills after this was postponed.

"I would normally be in placement from May but we've gone straight into second year already. I'm in lectures all the time. I'm worried I'm not going to develop my skills as much as I would've had this not happened", she said.

The students are hopeful that their studies and future job prospects will not be impacted significantly by the coronavirus pandemic, but there have been calls to introduce paid internships to those who graduate in 2020 in order to support employment prospects.

Credit: PA

The girls also observed Ramadan while in lockdown and said being at home made keeping fast more challenging.

"Ramadan in quarantine was both a blessing and a curse. We were always at home so it was more of a family Ramadan, but it was really stressful because we'd be revising all night and not getting much sleep and then would be really tired in the day from not eating", Hakima said.

"It was hard because I sat an exam during Ramadan,", Laila said.

"I was revising on FaceTime all night. One night, I went all the way through until 8am and then would only have a few hours sleep before getting up.

"But, normally my family would have been so on-the-go we would have barely seen each other. It has been really nice being able to spend more time with them."