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Students unable to access learning

Tuesday 8 September 2020

An NUS (National Union of Students) survey of nearly 4,200 students has found that in response to the statement, "I am able to access the online learning sufficiently to complete my studies e.g. I have access to the necessary equipment" 27% of students did not agree that they have been able sufficiently to access education online.

  • 12% neither agreed nor disagreed
  • 10% disagreed
  • 5% strongly disagreed

In response to the statement that, "The online provision is of a good standard/quality" 38% of students did not agree that it was of a good standard/quality:

  • 19% neither agreed nor disagreed
  • 13% disagreed
  • 6% strongly disagreed

NUS is calling on institutions and government to wake up and step up as the new term approaches.

The Coronavirus and Students Survey phase II took place in July and involved over 4,000 students, building upon the previous research issued by NUS in April 2020.

For those students who were not able to complete their studies online sufficiently this was largely due to having no access to physical resources, online materials being insufficient, a lack of IT equipment/technology, absent or poor WIFI, and not having access to IT programmes/software.

Of those who receive learning support, 19 percent did not feel that they had received adequate support to enable them to continue their work to the best of their ability throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

In contrast students’ approval of the way that their university assessments were carried out was generally high, with two in three satisfied to some extent with the methods used. Furthermore, 2 in 3 students got the marks they expected to get in their assessments, with just under half saying their results were the same as before the pandemic and a fifth stating they were actually higher. This demonstrates the importance of the adoption of no-detriment policies and alternative processes for exams by institutions, many adopted as a result of campaigns and consultation with students’ unions.

As students prepare to return to their studies the biggest learning concerns are a lack of experiences followed by the lack of quality teaching and/or online learning. Most students would like to see their courses carried out as normal this coming year as far as possible, but for institutions offering a form of blended learning, these results make clear that they must ensure all students have the necessary resources available to them to access online learning.

Larissa Kennedy, NUS National President, comments on the findings:

“It is unacceptable that these numbers of students have been unable to engage with their learning during this pandemic. These figures must act as a wake-up call to the government and the entire education sector so that all students have the resources that they need for their learning before the start of next term.

“Students who have not been able to receive the teaching that they were entitled to last term must be given the option to redo the term, or have their fees written off or reimbursed.

“Coronavirus has entrenched the disadvantages that students of colour, disabled students and working-class students experience, and this should be of concern to all of us. If we are to ensure that education is accessible for all we must eradicate injustice as quickly as we can, such as by providing students with the resources and technology that they need to learn."

Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, NUS Vice President for Higher Education, said -

“It's evident from our research that the demand for academic support by students is going to go up even more than we’ve already seen during the pandemic, with many already turning to their students’ unions which have also been hit hard financially by COVID-19.

“Funding from many institutions to students’ unions is going down just as students need them most, and due to the lockdown few have been able to secure alternative funding through their commercial activities to bridge the gap. The role that students’ unions play in the student experience has only increased over the last few months and they must be given the support and resources they require to continue this crucial work.”