Half of young people want earlier return for students in England

But poll finds opinion fairly evenly divided among general population

April 27, 2021
Online lesson
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More than half of young adults think that students in England should be allowed to return to in-person teaching earlier than is currently planned, according to a new poll.

However, opinion among the general population is fairly evenly split with 42 per cent supporting an earlier return but 35 per cent being opposed.

The poll of almost 4,300 adults from YouGov comes with English campuses still around three weeks away, at the earliest, from being able to resume in-person teaching for all students.

In a letter to Boris Johnson earlier this month, vice-chancellors said it was “illogical” that shops, gyms and tourist attractions could reopen on 12 April but 1 million students still had to study online.

Currently, only students on practical and priority courses are receiving in-person tuition, with 17 May the earliest date that other students can return. However, with this date being so close to exam season, it is likely many students will take no further part in face-to-face classes this academic year anyway.

For the YouGov poll, people were asked whether they thought English university students “should or should not be allowed to resume in-person teaching before the currently scheduled date of 17 May”.

Among different regions, people in London and the south of England were marginally more likely to say students should be able to return, while in the north of England the same proportion agreed and disagreed with the statement.

However, the major split was by age, with 51 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds saying students should be allowed to resume in-person teaching, as opposed to 27 per cent being against. For over-65s, people were slightly more likely to say students should not return before 17 May.

Connor Ibbetson, a data journalist at YouGov, said it was notable that while a “significant proportion” believed students should return, there were “still over a third of Britons who believe English students shouldn’t be allowed back” before 17 May and “nearly a quarter are unsure”.

“The dividing line on this issue appears to be age, with young Britons much more likely to think in-person teaching should be allowed to resume earlier than older Britons,” he said.

The poll did not ask about the situation in the rest of the UK, where plans on the resumption of in-person teaching differ. In Wales, for instance, all students have been allowed to return for the summer term for a mix of online and face-to-face classes.


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