The Glasgow Guardian speaks to one student forced to take a year out due to severe symptoms.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by The Glasgow Guardian has found that over the first semester of the academic year 2021/22, 127 Good Cause claims were made at the University of Glasgow containing a reference to or mention of long Covid. Of these 127 claims, 41 have so far been granted. “Long Covid” is not a specific field for reporting Good Cause, and so other reasons would have been submitted alongside of this for the claim to have been successful.
Symptoms of long Covid include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain and problems with memory, or “brain fog”, which can last for months after being infected with Covid-19. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 134,000 people in the 17-24 age bracket, the largest age group of students, are living with long Covid in the UK.
Tara Byrne was due to start the fourth year of her languages degree this year, but instead had to withdraw temporarily from the University for the year due to her long Covid symptoms making it impossible to study. As this makes her no longer a full-time student at the present, she has been left with little support.
Before withdrawing, advisors in the University urged Tara to keep studying through the long Covid in order to receive more support, and offered her the option of studying from home. However, her long Covid symptoms meant that even with some form of support, remaining in studies was not a feasible option.
Tara applied for the discretionary fund and was awarded just £500, despite her subsequent withdrawal from studies meaning she is no longer in receipt of a student loan and cannot work due to the illness. She tole The Glasgow Guardian that shortly afterwards, a friend applied for the same fund and received more than double Tara’s amount, even though she is still studying, and thus has a student loan as well as a part-time job.
Although the University directed Tara to apply for Universal Credit, there was a lack of support in completing the difficult application. “The application processes are so complex and detailed that it’s really impossible for me to get it done alone. It’s the same with the discretionary fund; my mum had to do the whole application for me because I just can’t concentrate on it. It’s really exhausting and for someone with such debilitating symptoms there isn’t much in place to help with that kind of thing,” Tara told The Glasgow Guardian.
The FOI obtained by The Glasgow Guardian did not give the number of students who deferred their place at the University due to long Covid.
The University of Glasgow has not responded to our request for a comment on support available to students struggling with long Covid.
If you have been affected by the issues in this article and would like to share your story, please email [email protected].