How is COVID-19 affecting universities this term?

With social meetups in the UK now limited by law to six people or fewer, how will the overall university experience adapt to fit with the new guidelines? 

For students, preparing to head off to university is usually a whirlwind of excitement and nerves, with students stocking up on essentials before launching themselves into a new stage of their lives. And while UK future students have known for a while that COVID-19 will change how uni looks, recent government announcements are yet another curveball.

Deserted campuses: what measures are uni's putting in place?

86% of students who planned to head to university before COVID-19 still intend to do so – and most expect to start at some point in the next two months. But with the government announcing this week that no more than six people can meet at a time, the experience of moving to a new place is suddenly looking very different.

So, what’s changed? 

The government has advised universities that they should still open for the Autumn term, but recognises that the majority of education providers will need to make significant changes to keep students safe. It has urged universities to consider a range of measures – including smaller groups, a mix of online and in-person teaching and social distancing on campus. International students moving to the UK must quarantine in accordance with the guidelines from their country, and university halls have had to adapt to facilitate this.

Students staying positive.

Different universities will implement different measures based on the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in the area. Tier one will be the default and will involve a mix of online and face-to-face teaching, with masks worn in crowded areas. The tier system escalates up to tier four – in which university buildings are completely closed.

And what will stay the same? 

It’s worth noting that the legal limit on the number of people who can meet up at once – set to six from the 14th September – does not apply for educational gatherings. Also, universities have been advised to switch to fully online teaching only as a last resort. On the social side of things, student union bars and student unions can remain open, so long as they are COVID-secure.

Have you got your Freshers marketing strategy ready to go? Check you’ve not missed anything with our Freshers Marketing Checklist 2020.

What should brands know? 

The key takeaway here is that different students will be embarking on different experiences. Across the country, some students might be adapting to a new environment by mixing in small groups, while others could be in quarantine within halls before meeting their classmates. Some students might be attending classes – especially those where lab work or other practical activities are necessary – and others might be facing reduced contact hours and virtual seminars.

Support students now; they'll thank you with loyalty.

If your marketing message speaks to the typical Freshers’ experience, it might be a good time to amend it. But remember that Gen Z are adaptable – they will still be arriving at university with all of the excitement and nerves of previous student cohorts, and they will be keen to make the most of the experience while staying safe.

How will student spending change? 

There’s a lot that brands can do to enhance this unique Freshers experience. Students will likely be spending a lot more time at home – whether in halls or in their student flat – so they’ll no doubt be repurposing their budget to make their space as comfortable and welcoming as possible. Deals and discounts to make this happen will no doubt be greatly appreciated. 

For quarantining international students, food delivery services can really come into their own by offering discounts and stackable offers to see them through the 14 day quarantine period. And a must-have on every student wishlist this year will be tech they can rely on during virtual teaching sessions. 

Want to know how students were spending in the height of lockdown? Download our guide to adapting your strategy for COVID-19 today.