17th December 2020

Our Covid Journey

In March 2020 the SU had to close its doors as the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK

We’ve been through an extraordinary journey since then. Read about how the coronavirus has impacted the SU and our ongoing recovery.



  1. March 2020
  2. April 2020
  3. May 2020
  4. June 2020
  5. July 2020
  6. August 2020
  7. September 2020
  8. October 2020
  9. November 2020
  10. December 2020

March 2020

  • In March 2020, the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic was starting to hit the UK. On the 16th March the SU declared a ‘major incident’, and four days later closed its doors for the foreseeable, stopping all trading overnight.
  • The SU moved much of its activity online the days that followed, prioritising the Student Advice Centre, ensuring our advisors could continue helping students via remote appointments.
  • Our eight officers launched the Sheffield SU online community Facebook page, where 2,500 Sheffield students continued chatting, supporting each other and organising remote activities.
  • When the SU closed its doors all trading was stopped overnight. March was a bleak month for the SU’s finances, with no trading income and no sign of Government intervention. To afford the month’s payroll bill, the SU lent heavily on its reserves.

April 2020

  • With no trading income, the SU budgeted a loss of £8 million of its total £12 million turnover for 2020-21.
  • It was dark days for the SU finances, and the organisation’s leaders began considering how the necessary savings would be made. Simultaneously, our students were coming up with innovative and inspiring ways to help the Sheffield community through the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Our students organised in the most amazing ways:
    • Forge Radio’s podcast ‘Isolation Pod’ entered the top five in global student radio charts.
    • Bake Society launched a virtual Bake Off encouraging anyone baking at home to use the #IsolationBakes hashtag whilst collecting recipes for their blog.
    • The Disabled and Dyslexic Students committee launched the campaign ‘Keeping Calm Together’, focusing on maintaining good wellbeing and mental health in an anxiety-inducing time.
    • Our Activities Officer Martha Evans re-entered the NHS as a frontline worker part-time
    • Allotment Society started a video series of easy home veg-growing tips
    • Our officer team ran twice weekly Instagram live drop-in sessions for all students to voice questions, comments and concerns
    • Virtual RAG week raised £1000 for Assist Sheffield and Ashiana Sheffield, with fundraising activities ranging from Fundraising online belly dancing lessons, a Three Peaks stair climb challenge and charity quizzes
    • University sports clubs raised over £16,000 FOR
    • Bummit Committee successfully hosted the world's first virtual charity hitchhike ‘Bummish’
    • Our International Students’ Officer mask donation drive saw 3,000 unused masks donated for local charitable organisations in need of PPE
    • 800 newly elected student leaders attended training run by the SU, one of the highest rates of engagement ever
    • Underpass festival took place online
    • The 2020 Sports and Activities awards ceremonies took place online
    • Bar One’s weekly quiz, Pop Tarts, Tuesday Club and Roar were all moved online for students to enjoy in their living rooms
    • Forge Press published its final issues of the year online
    • SU Council, the largest decision-making body in the organisation held its meetings online, setting up a sub-committee for learning and teaching
    • Give It A Go delivered a weekly programme of activities and events, including virtual trips to the theatre, guided meditations and how to draw sessions
  • The organisation entered into the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to help save the remainder of the already depleted reserves. Around 80% of staff were put on furlough leave, and the SU continued to deliver its mission with a skeleton staff team
  • The SU launched the ‘More than a Building’ campaign to promote the SU services and activities being delivered remotely, keeping the spirit of the SU as alive as ever
  • Meanwhile, the University was planning for reduced student numbers and the necessary cost savings. A 15% cut to the SU’s grant was confirmed

May 2020

  • A major restructure of the SU’s core staff team was proposed to trustees, in order to make the necessary savings to keep the SU’s doors open. This included a 25% reduction in staff costs, and all core staff were at risk of redundancy.


Help our SU recover from the impacts of covid. Support us to support and enhance student lives, by making a donation to our new fund:

SU PayPal giving fund

June 2020

  • We said goodbye to the 2019-20 officer team, and finished up the summer term. We welcomed the 2020-21 officer team to begin what will be the most unusual year as an SU officer.

July 2020

  • Preparations began to welcome students back to the SU in September. Some staff were brought back from furlough leave on a part-time basis, the Nursery was reopened, and Sheffield Store was back selling merchandise online.

August 2020

  • Bar One reopened its doors, welcoming students back with additional safety provisions and an app for socially distanced ordering. More staff were brought back off furlough leave, and the teams pulled together to begin planning for the return of students in September. The new SU core staff structure was signed off at Trustee board and senior leaders began implementing the new shape.

September 2020

  • On September 14th we reopened our doors and welcomed our students back to the building. Interval, Our Shop, Sheffield Store and Coffee Revolution followed in the successful footsteps of Bar One, implementing safety and social distancing measures and apps for ordering food and drink.
  • For the first time ever, our Activities and Sports fairs were moved online, giving all our students the opportunity to discover their new passion and meet new people.
  • Our events programme was transformed, reimagining favourites in a covid-safe way. ‘Pop Tarts in the Garden’ was born: the classic night revamped as a seated, socially distanced event in the Bar One beer garden.

October 2020

  • In October we welcomed our postgraduate students to Sheffield with an SU welcome week.
  • We opened up the annual recruitment drive for Academic Reps and held the SU Council elections. Both saw brilliant engagement, with recruitment of over 1,000 Academic Reps and 214 SU Council nominations, up from 166 in 2019.
  • The SU Officers launched a student food drive to help alleviate the food inequality problems in Sheffield which were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.


Help our SU recover from the impacts of covid. Support us to support and enhance student lives, by making a donation to our new fund:

SU PayPal giving fund

November 2020

  • In November 2020 the country went into a second national lockdown, set to last for a month. The SU responded by launching ‘lockdown listings’, a programme of events available for students during lockdown 2.0
  • The SU conducted its annual Student Experience Survey with a particular focus on the impact of Coronavirus on the semester. Almost 3,000 students took time to feedback on their academic and social experiences and wellbeing, giving the SU key insights to help plan for the new year.
  • The SU Officer team also secured a huge win for students, by successfully lobbying the University to refund those in Uni Accomodation for the last two weeks of semester 1, and invest in a £3 million student Covid-19 support fund.
  • The Officers also launched the SU’s most ambitious representative campaign in recent years, the ‘Forgotten Students of 2020’. The campaign comprised a series of demands for better support students through the pandemic, including giving academic protections and refunds on housing.

December 2020

  • The SU supported the University’s opening of their student testing facility in the Octagon Centre. Students were encouraged to take the lateral flow test before utilising the student travel window which allowed them to return home for the Christmas break.
  • Many students remained in Sheffield over the Christmas break either out of choice or because they were unable to travel. Additional support and activities were programmed by the University and students’ union to support these students across the Christmas period, including a Christmas Festival led by International Students Committee, and a Staying in Sheffield Facebook Community.
  • The Students’ Union stayed open to provide study space and daily essentials up until the final day of term (Friday 18th December). After this the building closed for an extended Christmas break of three weeks, to reduce running costs during a period of lower demand. It was hoped this would allow the Students’ Union to make savings against some of the lost income it had suffered across the previous months.