The Coronavirus pandemic has involved considerable financial cost to many students. In response, St John’s launched its Coronavirus Hardship Fund in early 2020. This Fund has been providing emergency help to all those who require support – especially our most vulnerable students.

Holly Stapleton is a first year law student who has been studying at home for the duration of Hilary term 2021. Here, she explains how she has benefited from your donations to the Coronavirus Hardship Fund.

Library & Study Centre Informal Study AreaWithout access to the many study spaces in St John’s and the wider University, and without the large desk and comfortable chair in my College room, I have been really struggling to work the long hours necessary at home. Since the beginning of the January lockdown, I had been spending long days studying on an uncomfortable desk chair that was causing me to have serious back pain. What’s more, the pandemic has meant that money at home is limited. This is why the support that I received from the Coronavirus Hardship Fund has been so important to me; it benefits me every single day that I study at home. The Fund meant that I was able to purchase a much better desk chair, instantly improving my study space and home working situation. Without this support, I would have really struggled to do my exams at home, but now I’m able to study for longer which will help me to get a better grade in my mods. The fund also meant that I didn’t need to put financial pressure onto my family. I would like to thank the donors to the Coronavirus Hardship Fund for their support. It has made a big difference and I am very grateful.

" I would like to thank the donors to the Coronavirus Hardship Fund for their support. It has made a big difference and I am very grateful. " Holly Stapleton (2020, Jurisprudence)

Lucy Vickers is a second year Geography student who has been  studying from home since the beginning of the pandemic. She explains how your support has affected her studies.

1363.jpgThe pandemic has hit everyone hard and we have all had to find new ways to go about our everyday routine. In particular, this has forced us to adapt our usual working methods in order to try and maintain some level of normality. As a second year geography student, having matriculated in 2019, I spend most of my time switching between reading on my computer and watching lectures, now also all on my computer. As such, most of my day at the moment is spent staring at a computer screen – as is the case for a lot of people – and so the monitor that I have been able to purchase thanks to the generous donors to the Coronavirus Hardship Fund has been vital for my academic success and in making my studies easier. By functioning as a second screen, my new monitor has been particularly useful to split the source I am working from – reading or lectures – from my laptop screen that I use to take notes. Being able to organise my workspace like this has allowed me to approach the time I spend at my desk in a much calmer manner, making my Hilary term from home just that bit easier. The best thing about the monitor is that I will be able to use it when I am eventually able to return to St John’s, so it really is a long-term investment that will help me for the rest of my time at Oxford. So, I want to say thank you to the donors to the Hardship Fund for making my Hilary term easier, more organised and helping to improve the effciency of my worktime.

" The best thing about the monitor is that I will be able to use it when I am eventually able to return to St John’s, so it really is a long-term investment that will help me for the rest of my time at Oxford. " Lucy Vickers (2019, Geography)

Dr Matthew Nicholls is the Senior Tutor and has been instrumental in supporting St John’s students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He writes about the steps that the College has taken to ensure every student has access to the resources they need to continue their studies.

Dr Matthew NichollsAs the COVID-19 situation in the UK began to impose restrictions on Universities, around the end of Hilary Term 2020, we had to ask our student population to leave College with no clear return date in mind. As it turned out, the large majority had to stay away from College throughout Trinity, and into the summer. Many of them had exams to sit, and all of them had important academic work to do. At University and College level plans were quickly made and put into operation; exams and tutorials, for example, were put online. The College began to deliver its teaching by Teams and Zoom, with books scanned or posted by the library, or bought as e-copy. Colleagues across the College, and our students, adapted magnificently to these extraordinary circumstances, and did so again in the autumn as restrictions began to tighten, and again at the start of 2021 as we found ourselves once again in a full national lockdown, with most students at home. By now, we are all pretty used to teaching remotely, and find that it works well; we have even been able to move lecture events and other gatherings online. Other elements of College life, and the College environment, are of course harder to replicate and we all eagerly await a return to normality. 

All of this is a credit to everyone involved, but it has not been straightforward. We know that many of our students have home circumstances that are not ideal for quiet study; early in the first lockdown, University surveys began to take a measure of that, and to categorise and quantify the problems (lack of desk space, of suitable computers or tablets, of reliable internet, of peace and quiet).  

Here the generosity of our alumni has been very helpful, and much appreciated. One of the first measures we took to support students was to increase our academic grant by £150 per head, and to adopt a more flexible attitude than usual to what might constitute a necessary academic purchase. Computers, tablets, Wi-Fi boosters, desk chairs, and noise-cancelling headphones have been popular purchases and much appreciated by our students. Money alone cannot solve every problem, but it can go a long way to help in many cases. By the end of Trinity Term, our expenditure on academic grants had increased by over £90,000 compared to the previous year. As it became clear that the current academic year, and the new first year cohort, were also going to be seriously affected, we increased the grant again and are seeing many applications. We have also put in place group sessions and one-to-one consultations with expert study advisers for students who cannot yet return to College and who are finding it diffcult to study at home. COVID-19 funds donated by our alumni have also been invaluable in supporting our graduate scholarship holders, where research delays have caused them to seek an extension to their funding, or to apply to our Coronavirus Hardship Fund. 

St John’s always seeks to provide our students with the best possible academic environment and support for their studies, but alumni generosity has allowed us to extend this in new ways quickly, and flexibly, to respond to a quite unprecedented crisis. For this, we are all very grateful.

" Money alone cannot solve every problem, but it can go a long way to help in many cases. " Dr Matthew Nicholls, Senior Tutor
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We are grateful to everyone who has supported the Coronavirus Hardship Fund. Click here if you would like to find out more about supporting this Fund.