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New poll finds a decline in student mental health but growing satisfaction with online learning

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The Higher Education Policy Institute (@HEPI_news) has worked with Youthsight on a poll of over 1,000 full-time undergraduate students to see how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting them.

This follows on our two rounds of previous polling, undertaken at the start of the crisis in March and at the end of the last academic year in June.

The results show:

  • More than half of full-time undergraduate students (59%) say they are very or quite satisfied with the online learning that has replaced face-to-face teaching, up from 42% in June 2020 and 49% in March 2020.
  • Half of students (51%) are receiving some face-to-face teaching whereas 49% are receiving none.
  • More than half of students (58%) say they consider their mental health to be in a worse state since the beginning of the pandemic, compared to 14% who say their mental health is better. Just over a quarter (28%) say their mental health is the same.
  • Only 16% of students are very or quite unsatisfied with the provision of mental health services at their higher education institution. However, less than half (42%) say they are very or quite satisfied with the provision of these services.
  • Half (50%) of students are very or quite satisfied with how their higher education institution has provided support services outside of mental health services (e.g. careers support).
  • Just under half (44%) of students say they are very or quite satisfied with how their student union or guild are supporting their higher education experience.
  • The majority (56%) of students are very or quite satisfied with how their higher education institution has handled any outbreaks of Coronavirus.
  • Comparing HEPI / YouthSight’s previous polling in June and this polling, there is a disparity between expectations of how learning would be delivered this academic year and the reality. Around a fifth (21%) of students expected all learning to be online, but 53% currently have all learning online.
  • A third of students (33%) say they currently spend all or almost all of their time in their accommodation. A further quarter (28%) say they spend most of their time in their accommodation.
  • Most students say their higher education experience feels very or quite safe (79%).
  • Just under two thirds (60%) of students say they understand the latest Government guidance about the end of term and Christmas travel.
  • Over half of students (54%) are very or quite concerned about the return to university in January.

Rachel Hewitt, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

‘It’s great to see more students are now finding their online delivery satisfying, compared to the end of the last academic year. This is likely a marker of the work that has been put in place by universities to ensure blended learning can be made a success, as well as students adapting to the new way of learning. It is also reassuring to see that, despite the challenges of the current environment, the majority of students feel their higher education experience is safe.

‘Student mental health has been an issue since well before this crisis. However, with more than half of students saying the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health, it will be critical that universities continue to provide the necessary support to their students and monitor levels of poor mental health and wellbeing among the student body.

‘With more than half of students concerned about how they will return to university after Christmas to start their next term, it is clear that Government need to publish guidance on this as soon as is possible so students can be confident about getting back to their studies in the New Year.’

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