By Dinah Kolka
COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges across most industries. Companies had to develop new ways of reaching out to customers and much of the employment has moved home – the surge in remote working is proof of that. Tourism was halted and the universities chose to conduct their lectures online. This has also impacted the maritime industry.
Maritime students spend a considerable part of their degree at sea – for example, Plymouth university offers practical skills, such as practising with a training vessel and ship simulation. They also offer sailing weeks and a year-long placement at sea or onshore. By moving such invaluable elements of the course online, many students miss out on the ability to learn essential skills. This has also been seen in the nursing industry, where at some universities students saw their practical sessions reduced from once a week to once a semester. But now, the students face extra challenges.
As reported by UCAS in June, there was a 12% increase of international students commencing their study starting in September as compared to the previous year. There was a clear decrease in EU nationals, which could be attributed to the forthcoming end of the Brexit transition period which means that in the future, these students may require a student visa. Despite this, there was a surge in EU nationals from Spain and Poland by 6.2% and 6.7% reaching a record number this year.
With this influx, there are more challenges – a lot of the students are isolated in their student accommodation, often unable to take part in the practical parts of their course due to the ongoing pandemic. With the current tiered restrictions, many students are left on ice without a chance to either see their family or go for a meal. As they often can’t go back to their country for Christmas due to the high costs of travel, this may cause a deterioration of their mental health. Suicide rate tends to rise over the festive period, therefore support for students who struggle needs to be made available. There are university initiatives to support students throughout this difficult time, but for many maritime students, this may not be enough.
As reported by Nautilus International, multiple universities chose various ways to make the transition to remote learning easier. For example, Warsah Maritime School at Solent University reopened their simulators and engineering workshops as well as laboratories, ensuring social distancing and hygiene.
Many other universities should follow suit to ensure that the students:
- Are offered mental health support if required – students in isolation require extra care and extra support and lack of consideration may lead to depression, anxiety disorder or, in the worst-case scenario, a suicide;
- Don’t miss out on the practical part of their course – with the implementation of common-sense rules, students may be able to still participate in some face-to-face teaching as well as hands-on training; and
- The assistance should be provided specifically to those who stay home for Christmas – the universities could provide care packages to ensure that the students are feeling looked after.
Regardless of the issues that the young cadets deal with on the daily basis, there are ways to still make their time at the university enjoyable. Progress in technology means that students can face-time their family and reconnect with those they can’t directly see.
Nautilus International also confirms that a lot of students have had their placements taken away or cancelled at very short notice. However, some universities have decided to move forward the currently unavailable sea placements and focus on the theoretical part of the course first. It shows that universities that offer maritime courses are trying their hardest to implement smarter ways of assisting students. But is it going to be enough?
Undoubtedly, Christmas time will be difficult for many maritime students. But with a collective effort from universities, the government, and the students we may see the light at the end of the tunnel. With the vaccine in sight, there is a chance that the students will be able to resume their studies as normal next year. Let’s hope for the best resolution and offer support to students who are certainly struggling right now.
This article has been written by Dinah Kolka. She writes for immigrationnews.co.uk, a media platform that helps to raise awareness about immigration issues around the world.
Sea News Feature, November 26