Care and Support for UK Campus Students During the Pandemic
2022-07-11 16:48:28
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Editor's note

The Covid-19 pandemic in the UK began in March 2020. Almost two and half years later, life in the UK is now back to normal after much disruption to universities, businesses, and travel, resulting from government restrictions and lock-down policies in response to the pandemic. All students at UK universities are now back on campus and enjoying face-to-face teaching, and extracurricular and social activities.

As we reflect upon our lives and activities during this period, despite student life during lockdown and the various disruptions to teaching and learning being somewhat surreal, one of the key takeaways is the resilience of staff and students of the UK Campus, particularly how the members of staff rallied together to ensure that the students were protected and cared for during the two national lockdowns.

United in Managing Challenges

After the first national lockdown, the UK slowly opened up and university students were allowed back on campus after July 2020. With the easing of restrictions while the pandemic was still ongoing, the UK Campus staff understood the need to protect themselves and the students. As such, they all got together that summer to plan the necessary precautions and standard operating procedures for welcoming our first batch of students back onto the UK Campus for face-to-face teaching.

Antigen test kits were made available at the UK Campus reception
As the UK government relaxed the Covid-19 precautions, whereby people were allowed to mingle and socialize in public places, it was inevitable that some students would become infected with Covid-19. With all the plans in place, that was the time when the staff of the UK Campus got together to execute their Covid-19 response. Everyone worked to play their part in helping students through the pandemic and ensure that student health and safety was the utmost priority. With the resilience of the staff and students, the UK Campus has confidently and effectively managed the challenges.

One of the infected students said: "Two years ago, I was suspected of being positive for SARS CoV-2. I am eternally grateful for the unparalleled care shown by the UK Campus. The Head of Campus, Professor Guy Liu came to see me personally and administered the antigen test twice. My thanks also go to his team.They personally delivered medicines and a testing kit to my accommodation, addressed my worries, and even drove me to the airport at the end of the course. I am very thankful for all their support. 感恩,感谢,和感激你!"

Another student also expressed his thanks to the UK Campus: “I was infected in the winter of 2020 and was isolated in my room for 2 weeks. During my self-isolation, I very much appreciated Professor Guy Liu who delivered fruits and milk to me, and sent me Chinese herbal teas to help me recover. Under the good care and support, I soon recovered and tested negative after two weeks. Again, thanks to the excellent care and support from the staff of the UK Campus. I will always remember their kindness and care during this difficult time.”

Students, We’ve Got Your Back!

Despite the unprecedented pandemic and its impact, the UK Campus managed to not only protect students and to help those infected recover, but to also navigate the challenges of the pandemic with minimal disruption to student learning. To ensure the health and safety of all staff and students, if self-isolating or feeling unwell, students were given the option to attend lectures and seminars from home via Zoom.

The UK Campus also improved its teaching facilities and provided staff with training and assistance to ensure that the online teaching was as smooth and engaging as for the off-line students. The Zoom platform and the improvements made to the lecture hall have been very facilitative and enabled teaching and learning to continue as normal despite the challenges  posed by the pandemic.

"I feel so proud of our institution that in spite of such conditions, we are still able to communicate and learn together. This kind of support and communication is amazing," said international student Kirti Krishna, adding, “Talking to professors by just a click of a button and accessing their lectures in our comfort is the best we can get in this virus outbreak.”

The PHBS school leadership at the Shenzhen Campus was committed to ensuring the quality of online teaching and paid close attention to UK campus students’ concerns with Founding Dean Hai Wen, Associate Dean Young Joon Park, and International Office Director Mao Na holding regular online town hall meetings to enable real-time communication. The attendants also included members of the UK staff including Hang Yuting, Carryn Yong, and Guy Liu.
Hai Wen, vice chairman of Peking University Council and founding dean of PHBS, meets online with all the home and international s tudents at t he UK Campus
In response to students’ frequently-asked questions, Professor Hai elaborated on the school’s academic policies and requirements, the access to financial lab data, as well as course arrangements. He also gave updates on policies regarding international students' return to China and advice on many aspects related to their life and study. Highlighting the importance of “looking toward the sun,” he encouraged students to stay together and support each other to win the battle and learn important life lessons on patience, perseverance, and hope. On behalf of the School, Professor Hai Wen also announced the offer of financial support to our international students.

Student Life in the New Norm

Students’ mental health and well-being were of utmost importance to the UK Campus during periods of national lockdown and while students were required to self-isolate as per national requirements. During the pandemic, it has become very apparent that mental health and well-being are very important issues to students in their learning journey. Consequently, in 2021 the UK Campus appointed a dedicated member of staff to respond to and advise students on issues related to their welfare, mental health, and problems faced in their personal lives.
Consulting service for students

National lockdowns also highlighted the need and importance of socialisation and group activities. This period showed just how damaging isolation is to one’s mental health and how group activities are vital to mental health and well-being. To ensure that our students were well taken care of socially, especially after the two national lockdowns and self-isolation requirements, the UK Campus also organized a wide range of after-class activities and social events in order to provide students with a greater depth to their learning experience.
Group exercises and personal training

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of exercise to mental health and well-being. To ensure that our students were fit and healthy, the UK Campus arranged for a personal trainer to come to Campus twice a week to provide our students with personal training and group exercises. The personal trainer was well-trained and professional, and tailored every session to each of our students’ abilities, goals, and needs. Each training class lasted for 60 minutes and incorporated various exercises to improve core stability, strength, agility, and speed, which helped students to feel fitter and stronger in their daily lives. Some students, finding out just how useful it was to have such dedicated physical training, arranged to have 1-to-1 sessions with our personal
Cotswolds Trip

Throughout the pandemic, as the national restrictions relaxed, the UK Campus arranged various extra-curricular activities for our students, such as a walking tour of Oxford, a day trip out in the Cotswolds, a Pizza and Quiz night, Chinese music seminar, a Halloween experience, a photo competition, Chinese New Year tea party, a formal dinner at some of the University of Oxford’s colleges, amongst many other activities. Our students appreciated the opportunities to see and experience the City of Oxford and the UK during these challenging times.

Strong Academic Support

In addition to welfare and well-being support, the UK Campus also ensured that the students were well supported academically. As many second year students were unable to travel to our Shenzhen Campus due to the closure of the Chinese border, the UK Campus incorporated many academic avenues to support their dissertation research and writing.

To assist their research, the UK Campus acquired the WIND and Statista databases, and also organized research methods’ workshops to help students with data analyses and to familiarise them with the acquired databases. To help in monitoring their dissertation progress, a weekly Dissertation Supervisory Meeting was also established, where students reported on their dissertation writing progress, and a Mock Dissertation Defence with members of the UK Campus faculty was organised for students to present their final research. These academic support initiatives were well-received by the students who felt that it boosted their research confidence and their ability to pass the dissertation defense successfully.
Students attend hybrid seminars

The pandemic also limited the students’ ability to interact and network with people from industry. However, to help mitigate the effects, the UK Campus organised various hybrid seminars with a myriad of different speakers from various businesses and industries. These seminars were very well received by students, because, both in-person and online, they were able to learn many new insights from industry professionals beyond their courses, and many developed their network with numerous businesses and practitioners.
Despite the pandemic being officially over in the UK, it is without doubt that the learning experience of the students at the UK Campus during this period will remain with them forever. Despite the unprecedented times and their impact, PHBS students – like students all over the world – have been able to continue their studies and learn important life lessons.

By Annie Jin, Carryn Yong, and Jacqueline O'Brien, 
Published in the PHBS Magazine ( 6th Issue )