Students moving to university during the pandemic haven’t just had to get to grips with a new course and city. They’ve had to face the prospect of going into lockdown with relative strangers. Many institutions and organisations have released guidelines on how students can best look after their mental health and yesterday (Oct. 5) Kate Middleton visited a university to speak to students about how COVID-19 has affected them.
Kate Middleton visited the University of Derby on Oct. 6. Wearing a floral face mask, she sat down with some first-year students, student nurses, and students from sports societies to talk about the support that has been in place for them and their mental health over the last month.
The Duchess also met with Student Minds, a leading UK mental health charity for students, to talk about the resources available to new and existing students if they’re struggling.
Kate spoke with two 18-year-old students (Husna Hanif and Laura Oliver) who said that it’s been hard not seeing friends and loved ones but they’ve been keeping busy and there’s been support in place for them. Kate said, “that’s great to hear.”
Later in her visit, Kate also watched the women’s university football team practice and spoke to some of the new student nurses about how they’d been paired up with older students. The aim of this was to give them peer support and someone to talk to who had been in their shoes at the beginning of their studies.
Thousands of students have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions in the first few weeks of the university term. After being encouraged to return to campus, many faced self isolation after COVID-19 was detected in halls of residence.
Universities UK is an organisation that represents 139 institutions, including the University of Derby. On Oct. 6 they released new guidelines and a checklist for universities to follow in order to best support students who are self isolating. This includes staying in regular, personal contact with students and encouraging them to raise any issues they have and encouraging students to talk about any pre-existing mental health problems. Some criticised Universities UK for not releasing the guidelines sooner.
Many major university cities and towns have recorded increases in COVID-19 cases since students came back and more than 50 campuses have confirmed cases. In a statement NUS president Larissa Kennedy said, “It’s wholly unforgivable that students continue to be punished for the government's failure to keep students, staff and communities safe. Our education system is broken – time and again it prioritises profit over people ... Put simply – students deserve better.”
Student Minds who have created a special section in their student space for people who have moved to university during the pandemic. The service shares resources, hotlines, and support for people in need.