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A heartfelt thank you

When the world closed down, we reached out ... and you answered. The University’s COVID-19 Response Fund appeal launched in April 2020 to provide urgent support as the repercussions of the pandemic grew, and the response from our whole UofG community has been unprecedented. Now approaching its second anniversary, the appeal has raised over £625,000 from more than 800 donors.

The aim was to support two areas of urgent need we had identified: our ongoing research into COVID-19, for which we were gaining widespread recognition, and those students who were faced with severe financial hardship as a result of lockdowns. “Asking our community to help in this way was something we were nervous about," says Alumni Manager Michaella Mitchell. "We knew they had always been generous, but we had never done something of that scale in such uncertain times before. We asked them if they would consider supporting the fund, but not necessarily to give to one area or the other because at the time, we didn’t know which would be needed the most. It was a sensitive time, there was a lot of uncertainty about jobs, but the response we had within the first 48 hours was just something we had never seen before. It was amazing.”

Whether people gave £5 or £100, whether it was someone’s first gift or they were giving regularly already, the generosity was just never-ending." Michaella Mitchell, Alumni Manager

When cases of the virus began to rise, face-to-face teaching was suddenly discontinued, classes moved online, staff switched to remote working and many research labs closed in line with government guidelines. Our students had to try and adjust, but many who were not already in receipt of assistance such as scholarships needed extra financial help quickly; more than one in four of our undergraduate students come from low-income backgrounds.

“Pre-pandemic,” says Michaella, “some would have worked part time in cafes, shops and restaurants, jobs they relied on for income but which were now cut off to them due to lockdown. They could no longer think of going to the library or the James McCune Smith Building to study, as everything was closed, and many were suddenly obliged to pay out to equip themselves for online learning.” Working from home of course came with the knock-on effects of higher heating and electricity bills that students couldn't afford, and in some cases, the University was the only place they could turn.

The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and the anxieties and restrictions which accompanied it exacerbated the already challenging and sometimes fragile lives some of our students lead. The COVID-19 Response Fund directly supported students to help them see out these most difficult of times." Dr Neil Croll, Head of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning

A helping hand for our students in need

Donations to the hardship fund helped ensure that these students were able to navigate the immediate effects of the crisis, and thanks to the generosity of all our supporters, we helped those in greatest need cover basic living costs during those precarious times.  

With the future being as uncertain as it was, having this support that you provided financially and emotionally was a great comfort and privilege in hard times." UofG student

Accelerating research

On the research side of the fund, it had been clear very early on that at Glasgow, we had the facilities, researchers and ability to enable us to be at the forefront of COVID-19 research in Scotland. Our Centre for Virus Research led the University’s clinical response to the pandemic, sequencing and tracking virus transmission, while our Institute of Health & Wellbeing played an important role in understanding the impact of COVID-19, with researchers looking at epidemiology, public health, mental health and suicide prevention. The COVID-19 Response Fund gave our whole community the opportunity to contribute to this research, enabling us to buy equipment to make it more efficient, and maximise the output of the team. 

COVID-19 is being beaten by the application of basic scientific research. It therefore seemed right to support a leading research university to safeguard our future." Early donor to COVID-19 research

In the end, the University’s research has proved pivotal to the COVID-19 response in the UK. Our alumni, staff and students met the challenges of the pandemic in a spirit of collaboration, coming together as a community and adapting quickly to an ever-changing environment. 

“Whether someone sent us motivational messages to pass to students, told us they wished us luck, or dug deep into their pockets,” says Michaella, “I don’t think they’ll ever realise how important it was to us. At a time when I think we all felt a little bit helpless, it really did make a massive difference.”

This article was first published March 2022.

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