Our college has to be more than a place of learning during Covid-19

Published 14/12/2021

Keeping everyone happy is an impossible task – even for Santa according to my three-year old – but as a small college we reacted swiftly to the latest developments and reverted to online learning for the run-up to the holidays.

While small class sizes (average 3.2 students) ensure that academically the change is minimal, the most important factor was giving students and staff the best chance of spending the holidays with family and friends – wherever that may be.

Staff and student welfare is more important than ever. Daily Covid-19 updates, sinister-named variants and lockdowns create a level of background stress that raises affective filters and inhibits learning. As a family-owned college we see a clear link between wellbeing and success, so parents, the wider family and agents play key roles in supporting the student on their journey.

But no matter how good our 24/7 accessible parental portal may be, access to live attendance, test scores and tutor’s comments, can’t replace time spent together with loved ones relaxing, catching-up and having hot sprouts thrown at you by your sister (maybe only my family).

One positive test could have taken away that journey home and the precious spiritual, physical and mental recharge that is so vital to ongoing study, progress and success. One positive test and you’re sitting alone in residence, ordering Deliveroo and binge-watching Squid Game (less appealing than it sounds by day three). That is no way to prepare for a new term.

So, while all Covid brings may feel hard for us, at CSC we remember that for international students living away from home it is that much more significant. As a result, a college has to be more than a place of learning – it has to be a place of belonging, growing, engaging and being supported. So despite being online this week, we will be busy not only with exams, but with plans for student Christmas parties, quizzes, online bake-offs and graduation ceremonies.

Our March ‘21 Foundation students are heading for January starts at some of the 108 universities accepting our Foundation. Students’ achievement during the last two years should be celebrated more than ever and we will not allow omicron to stop us singing and dancing about those successes in the way they deserve.

We have been helping people access top UK universities for over 40 years, and the coming year will be no different, regardless of various variants.

“By opening up the world of online study, Covid allows a greater range of students from different socio-economic backgrounds to join us”

While having no more than 15% of any nationality means we will have to stay focused on green lists, amber lists and red lists (in addition to Christmas lists) over the holidays, we do so knowing that in a strange way, by opening up the world of online study, Covid allows a greater range of students from different socio-economic backgrounds to join us. And that in itself is a cause for celebration and a great stocking filler.

When speaking to students, parents or agents, it’s wonderful to know that we are able to guarantee those about to start that they will complete their courses and progress, regardless of what 2022 may bring. We worked together, learnt and succeeded when the new normal was anything but, and the services, education, success and support we now offer students – whether online, face to face, or moving flexibly between the two – is only getting better.

We’ve had emails and Christmas cards from former students happy in their first term of medical school, nursing degrees and much more. Their success shows what can be achieved, even during a pandemic. Knowing the contributions these alumni will make to society as they continue to study and grow, ensures our dedication to helping them and future students do so, only grows stronger.

About the author: This is a sponsored post from Phil Scherb, Managing Director and Principal of Cambridge Seminars College. After spending 10 years teaching in the UK and abroad, he has been a Manager and Director in the International Education field for the past 15 years.

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