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Half of UK students believe their university must do more to support mental health and reduce the cost of learning post-pandemic

Almost six in 10 students (58%) felt their university made improvements to their learning experience as they navigated the pandemic, however almost half are calling for more to be done when it comes to mental health and the cost of learning materials (both 49%), according to new research from learning enablement technology provider, BibliU (@BibliUSocial).

While the majority of students agreed that their university made improvements to the learning experience during the pandemic, one in five students (21%) somewhat or strongly disagreed. The findings suggest universities need to look at further improvements for the forthcoming academic year, taking students’ feedback on board for which areas will help most. 

The findings come from research conducted by BibliU in collaboration with Censuswide, which surveyed 1,000 UK university students between 30 September and 7 October 2021.

Among degree types, students experienced varied learning experiences during the pandemic too, suggesting inconsistencies between fields of study in their approach to the pandemic. Those studying information technology (70%), engineering (68%) and music (65%) were most likely to agree that their universities had made improvements to their learning experience in the past two years. However, those studying physics (39%), economics (35%) and history (31%) were more likely to disagree, believing that their university had not made sufficient improvements to their learning experience throughout the pandemic.

Students call for greater improvements this academic year

When asked what could be done to improve the quality of learning, students’ top responses were: lower prices for learning materials (49%), mental health support (49%), and more face-time with lecturers/tutors (41%). For male students, lower prices for learning materials (45%) was the top priority, while female students believe greater mental health, wellbeing, and financial support (51%) will have the most impact on the quality of their learning experience.

Depending on the area of study, the top priorities to improve the quality of learning for students vary:

  • 100% of those pursuing religious studies, as well as 75% of political science and 65% of music students, believe lower prices for learning materials would improve their learning experience the most.
  • Mental health, wellbeing, and financial support is the main factor that would improve the quality of their learning for those studying art (69%), social sciences (55%), biology (51%), and nursing (47%) this academic year.
  • 80% of communications students would like to see greater digital resource accessibility (e.g. e-textbooks) prioritised.
  • While those studying economics (59%) believe both better interactive functionalities within learning materials and improved communication/transparency from their university are equally important.
  • Finally, 63% of environmental science students would like more face-time with lecturers and tutors.

Commenting on the findings, Dave Sherwood, CEO of BibliU, said:

Universities have worked hard to navigate the pandemic, switching to remote learning overnight while still offering the expected high standard of education found within our great UK institutions. It is positive to see students acknowledging this when calling for changes that will help cement the UK’s education offering as a world leader for years to come.

“However we simply can’t ignore the factors still pricing some out of further education and the importance of mental health, wellbeing, and financial support when preparing students for their futures. As a combined result of greater societal changes and the pandemic, removing the stigma around mental health and offering a greater variety of support is a leading priority for many universities. In tandem, democratising learning resources by offering access to digital textbooks through the current university fees is one important way both universities and textbook providers can work together to reimagine the future of education to offer students better support and opportunities.”

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