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Putting student support at the centre of our covid response

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Volunteers standing besides food donations to students during lockdown

Students praise University's support during pandemic

From the moment the pandemic struck in March 2020, the University of Bradford initiated an action plan to prioritise support for its 10,000-plus students.

The University’s Student Life & Wellbeing Team acted fast to ensure students were offered a range of support from food and medicine deliveries to pastoral assistance, such as counselling and help with mental health issues.

They even arranged for a special Christmas activity set and have organised numerous 'pick up and go' takeaway meals.

Around 70 per cent of University of Bradford students live at home, but that still left a sizable proportion who found themselves with no support networks.

Now students have praised the support, which comes as the University was ranked number one in the country in a new league table which measures and compares impact on social mobility.

Reaching out

Outreach staff from the University’s Student Life Team engaged with students, organised food deliveries and maintained regular contact by phone and email. Hundreds of students have been helped with food deliveries (including 150 in just one day), either from the University’s own food bank or in conjunction with local supermarkets and amazon home deliveries, ensuring they had ready access to essentials like fruit, vegetables, milk, canned food, toiletries and more.

Many students have been unable to secure part-time work because of the pandemic and the University’s hardship fund, the Student Support Fund, has supported hundreds of students to ensure they are able to continue to meet their housing, and general living costs such as food, heating bills, and transport. The Student Support Fund was boosted by an appeal, which has thus far raised over £20,000 from alumni, and partners.

Laptop loans

Additionally, the University spent £500,000 to bolster its longterm laptop loan scheme and secured an additional 900 new Lenovo laptops at the height of the pandemic to ensure all students could continue their studies online. It even organised the delivery of laptops to housebound students in Leeds, Bradford, Keighley and Howarth.

Student Life Manager Sarah Jones, from Student, Academic & Information Services, said: “When the pandemic hit, some students suddenly found they were unable to go out or secure food delivery slots. In some cases, they did not have family support networks and were reliant on us. This also includes our care experienced, estranged and international students, some of whom did not have a UK bank account when the pandemic hit. For them, the service we were able to provide was a lifeline.

“Aside from providing essential food and medical items, we were also very conscious of students’ mental wellbeing, which is why we maintained regular contact, especially over Christmas, when we pulled together an activity pack which included fun things to do, including competitions and recipes to try at home. We care a great deal about the wellbeing of our students and we will continue to ensure our students are able to access food, practical and wellbeing support over the upcoming months.”

Students praise university

Jodie Metcalfe, 1st Year Healthcare Science Apprenticeship BSc (Hons) student, said: “My studies were going okay until my personal computer broke. Then when Covid-19 hit, I was unable to use the university's facilities and the restrictions meant I couldn’t get on campus, plus I have my children to think about.

“My lectures and seminars were called off and replaced by online classes on Zoom. I simply couldn’t get by just using my phone for lectures, let alone completing and submitting my coursework. I was really struggling. My course involves complex documents, lab reports, analysis but without a computer I couldn’t continue my apprenticeship.

“Thankfully, the university and the project helped me to reduce my stress and the laptop has been so valuable – a huge thank you for the support which has really helped my studies.”

An international student, currently in his second year of a law degree, who asked not to be named, said: “When the lockdown began in March, I quickly found myself unable to pay my rent and was struggling to afford food. I applied to the University’s Hardship Fund and was awarded £700, most of which went on rent. In addition, I was lucky enough to be given a new laptop to use for my studies, as my old laptop was not good enough. The University’s support has been a great help to me.”

Michelle Ratcliffe, 3rd Year Forensic Science BSc (Hons) student, said: “I had real issues completing my final year studies. I had limited, at times no, access to a computer and I couldn’t get to the university for normal study due to Covid-19, which wasn’t made any easier with my childcare responsibilities! It was very frustrating as I couldn’t progress with my dissertation.

“But the project the university rolled out was an immense benefit. The free laptop I received was brilliant and I’ve been able to overcome the difficulties and complete work on my dissertation.”

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