The Digital Demand

First-year undergraduate student, Peter, tells CONNECTED how grateful he is to donors for their support which will enable him to buy a laptop – an item that is now considered as essential in this increasingly digital learning environment that the pandemic is creating.

Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have led to the University of Reading adopting a blended learning approach, which mixes online pre-recorded learning, with face-to-face interactive teaching. Due to this move, a laptop and reliable broadband have become more vital than ever before.

This challenge was recognised by donors who stepped up to support students via the Digital Support Fund. The fund was set up to help the most disadvantaged students participate in online teaching and access resources by providing grants of up to £500.

Peter – one of the students who benefitted from this fund – has just started a four-year Pharmacy degree at Reading, and he told CONNECTED how important the support of donors has been to his academic success.

Nowhere else to turn

Peter was unable to ask his family for extra money to buy the laptop he needed for his university studies. Without the support of donors, he would have had nowhere left to turn to ask for help.

He explained: “The pandemic has badly impacted my family’s financial situation – my dad is a taxi driver and there just isn’t the work for him at the moment, so both my parents are now relying on Universal Credit. I just couldn’t ask them for help knowing how insecure their own finances are. My older sister helps provide for the family through her job as a trainee solicitor, but my brother is also studying at university so my family aren’t able to give me any extra money.

“I worked in a pharmacy throughout my gap year to fund my studies. I was working there during the first lockdown and I spent a lot of time talking to people in the long queues and trying to help them. I met a lot of interesting people in that job and I was pleased to be able to do my bit to help during the pandemic.

“However, despite working I didn’t have any money left over to purchase the laptop I badly needed. My wages went towards other essentials such as food and accommodation, so I applied for help from the Digital Support Fund – which is entirely funded by donor support.”

An invaluable resource

Peter felt extremely grateful when he found out his application was successful and he would be receiving a grant to help him purchase the laptop that was so essential to his studies.

He said: “I was so relieved when I found out I had been awarded this grant. Pharmacy is a course with a full timetable of lectures from 9am – 6pm every weekday.

“With about 80% of my degree now online due to COVID-19, owning a laptop is essential and I would have struggled to participate fully in my studies without one.

“This money will enable me to buy a high-quality laptop which will aid me throughout the four years of my degree, and will be an invaluable resource for my education.

“Like so many, my family has felt the full force of strained finances during the pandemic. I would like to thank the donors who have helped me. I don’t know what I would have done without this support.”

Supporting students

Unfortunately there are more students finding themselves with nowhere else to turn as the pandemic continues to create financial challenges – similar to Peter’s.

The Student Support Fund provides emergency grants to students in unexpected financial crisis; when they have run out of other options and dropping out of university is a very real possibility.

Find out more about our Student Hardship Appeal, or how you can get involved through the IMAGINE campaign.