WHO would want to be a student in 2020?

No one goes to university just to party - that is one hell of an expensive party!

They go to further their education, gain life skills and stand themselves in good stead for the jobs market when, in many sectors, a degree is entry level requirement.

This year, there has been no freshers ('boohoo' I hear you cry sarcastically).

Most students have been confined to their halls, not allowed to go to lectures, instead tuning in via Zoom - wondering if they will be able to go home from Christmas.

The Oxford Mail has published images of students breaking the law and partying during lockdown. We have also printed a letter from Brookes student Arthur Petan, who ignorantly told the elderly to ‘stay home if you don’t like it.’

Whilst many people were rightly outraged by the partying and by Mr Petan’s comments (see Monday's letters page), we must be balanced in our reporting and readers must be balanced in their understanding.

Not every student is breaking the law. Not every student agrees with Mr Petan. Not every one of the many thousands of Oxford university students was hanging around the Radcliffe Camera on Saturday.

The new images will no doubt anger or frustrate readers. But bear in mind they will also anger and frustrate fellow students. Students who are being threatened with debt collectors for accommodation they could not live in during the last few months of the last academic year.

Students who were told by the government and faculties to carry on as normal with sorting their accommodation, signing themselves up to years of repaying debts, only to get to their university and find they could have stayed at home, saved thousands of pounds and tuned into all the online classes from there. 

Then there is the toll on wellbeing to consider. No one likes to be alone. Who wants to be confined to a room in a strange city with people they've only just met? AND whilst paying thousands of pounds for the privilege?

I repeat again - who would want to be a student in 2020?

Not only will these students be paying off massive student loans for years to come, they'll also carry the burden of paying for coronavirus. And this is forgetting the economic impact of Brexit; a referendum in which today's crop of students were too young to vote.

According to the Chartered Institute of Taxation, this year’s deficit will exceed £300bn, more than twice the peak recorded after the 2008 financial crisis.

To put the debt into context, the country's debt following the Napoleonic Wars took almost a century to pay back. Coronavirus isn't a 2020 problem; it's a problem for many, many years to come. 

Students have for decades been the source of anger and jest - they are lazy or going to university so they can delay getting a 'real job.' 

But this trope fails to address the significant input of Oxford's universities into the city's economy. And what about the great scientists who hone their skills at Oxford; those developing a vaccine against coronavirus, for example?

It also fails to address the fact that in the UK, we have an education system which sets pupils up for university. If you were a student in 2020, you'd probably be feeling frustrated too.

Obviously, those who walk around without masks, congregate in large groups and put others at risk should be condemned for their behaviour. As far as we know, there weren't any reports of 'bad' behaviour, no - but hanging about in the city in massive groups is pretty stupid. 

Eyewitnesses say it was hard to social distance from the sprawling groups which extended across the city way past the Radcliffe Camera and along the High Street, Queen Street and Cornmarket Street. 

But, as some commentors have pointed out, when you are young you think you are invincible. Who of us, hand on heart, can say we didn't do something naive or silly as a kid?

If we are going to get through coronavirus, we need to do so as a city - and that means every part of this city; students, residents, this newspaper, doing their bit.

For this newspaper, at this moment in time, it means pleading for cooperation, with the rules and with eachother. The last thing any of us needs is a city lockdown. 

For students, it means adhering to the advice and showing a bit more maturity. For those of us who live in the city, it means understanding that we can't tar every student with the same brush. 

None of us are winners in this situation. Let's try and remember that. Let's start asking who is.