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Home » COVID-19 and the World of Work » COVID-19 and the World of Work Research Reports » The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Academic Performance of Graduate Students

The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Academic Performance of Graduate Students


This research aimed to study the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the academic performance of graduate students during the first wave. Phone interviews were conducted with three York University graduate students. The findings highlight that the pandemic had unequal impacts on the academic performance of the interviewees depending on their family status. Furthermore, the data shows that the interviewees experienced increased academic and financial precarity and engaged in high levels of emotional labour for their families. The interviewee with caregiving responsibilities also participated in mental work and was constantly on the run to take care of her family. The research participants emphasized the importance of compassionate teaching, maintaining academic integrity, and the need for the university to increase graduate students’ financial security. In addition, the research participants exercised resilience using various coping strategies. Marxism informs data analysis to illustrate how the interviewees’ subjective experiences of academic, financial, and health inequality and precarity are linked to macro-level forces of neoliberal capitalist economic social organization and relations such as the commodification of higher education. Thus, the neoliberal university, whose primary objective is to produce surplus value, has led to the economic and academic exploitation of TAs, which has become more visible and exacerbated under COVID-19. In conclusion, the paper highlights the need for the dissemination of anti-capitalist knowledge to displace capitalist culture with its antithesis to build wider collective political actions in the pursuit of radical social transformation.

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Written by Rubina Karyar (MSW Candidate, York University)
Peer reviewed by Kaitlin Peters (PhD Candidate, York University)

Rubina Karyar is a Master of Social Work candidate in the School of Social Work at York University in Toronto. She also completed a Master of Arts degree in Sociology at York University. Her research interests are in the following areas: homelessness and women’s homelessness in Canada; race, racism, and anti-racism; class and gender issues; state policies; work; and immigration.

Kaitlin Peters is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at York University in Toronto.