In her first year at the University of Bristol, Saranya Thambirajah has had little contact time for her politics course — but plenty of hands-on experience mobilising protests and organising direct action against the institution’s pandemic response.
The 19-year-old Londoner is one of the organisers of the 1,800 students on rent strike at the university. Forced into a fortnight of isolation after catching the virus last term, she found she was not so alone when it came to the frustrations she felt towards the university. Now she is part of a growing movement of students across the UK seeking to ensure that they don’t become an afterthought in a higher education system scrambling to cope with waves of lockdown and social distancing.
Thambirajah is now back home, unable to return to university and halfway through a second term of studying without any in-person contact with her tutors. “I barely even know anyone on my course — they’re all just people on a computer screen,” she says.