Following our Coronavirus and Students' Study back in April, which really helped to inform our campaign work, we're pleased to announce that Phase II of the research is now complete.
The second survey had over 4,000 responses, so there's loads of rich data on student perceptions, plans for the next academic year, student finance, health and wellbeing and access to education.
So, what does the survey show?
Students are close to the brink financially
There are going to be major financial issues for students next term. Three in five students say that Coronavirus has had some degree of impact upon their income - with one in five reporting a ‘major impact’. And they will not be able to rely on traditional sources of support as half of students say that the income of someone who supports them financially has been impacted by Covid-19.
Debt of various forms has been accumulated by large numbers of students since the pandemic started. 18% reported using credit cards, 10% reported needing financial assistance from friends and 8% took out bank loans. Around a fifth of students have fallen into rent arrears with their landlord and a similar portion also fell behind on utility bill payments. With the eviction ban only delayed by a further month this could begin to have serious repercussions.
This means that we are going to see a cohort of students who are in even more financial need, with around half of students intending to work alongside their studies next term. This is up from the figures that we saw in March, but while students may be planning on working it is still uncertain what work will be available to them when they return to campuses. What is clear is that they are going to need more financial support.
Online learning will present major difficulties for some students
Of the students who have had online learning provided by their institution last term, almost 1 in 3 were unable to access their education, with 45 percent not satisfied that their education was of a good standard or quality. This is a really significant increase from March and shows that as more learning was moved online, there were large numbers of students who were disengaged because of it.
If teaching is going to continue online, universities and colleges must make sure that students have the resources that they need to be able to study remotely.
Coronavirus has taken its toll on student welfare
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the wellbeing of students, with 60 percent of students reporting low self-esteem. Students are also more likely to have experienced feelings of isolation during this period with 73 percent of students interacting less with students from their institution, 72 percent less with their course mates and 59 percent less with their friends. LGBT+ students and disabled students were also more likely to experience low self-esteem at this time.
It is also clear that anxieties around contracting Coronavirus are still an issue amongst sections of the student population. Mature students, female students, disabled students and those with caring responsibilities were all more likely to report that they were ‘very scared’ about contracting Coronavirus. Clarity of information from institutions about the measures they are taking and the centreing of the experiences of these students in institutional planning should remain a priority.
Students are going to require more support to counteract these feelings of isolation and low self-esteem. There is a role for us all to play here in ensuring that students receive regular contact from their SUs and institutions and ensure that they feel supported.
However, we cannot just look at short-term fixes. Part of the reason there has been such a massive impact on student mental health is because COVID has exacerbated financial concerns. We must tackle these issues at the root, and now is our chance to do so.
Students in England do not think the UK government is acting in their interests
67% of students in England do not think that the UK government is acting in their interests. This has increased from 40% in March, demonstrating that students do not think they have been taken into account throughout the government’s response to coronavirus. This data was also collected prior to the A-level crisis, so does not include representation the public outrage during the exams fiasco in August.
Students have been ignored throughout this pandemic and these results show that this is having an impact on their perceptions of government. This lack of trust could be really significant at a time when government need students to listen to messaging around local lockdowns and social distancing rules.