Hepi poll: most university students want exams to continue online

Survey of undergraduates also finds just under half of students are satisfied with online teaching during pandemic

April 7, 2020
exams university
Source: istock

A greater proportion of students would prefer their assessments to take place online than be cancelled, according to a survey of undergraduates.

The survey of about 1,000 undergraduates, carried out by YouthSight for the Higher Education Policy Institute, found that only 36 per cent of students believed that their assessments for the rest of the year should be cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

It found that 42 per cent expect universities to continue assessments online and 17 per cent would prefer the assessments to be postponed until after the crisis.

The National Union of Students has called on higher education institutions to cancel exams for first- and second-year students in the wake of the pandemic, arguing that final year students should be given a choice between being given a grade based on prior attainment, doing an open book online exam, or taking their finals at a later date.

The poll did also show there was a slight variation in perspective depending on which year the student was in: 44 per cent of first year students thought that assessments should be cancelled, compared with 32 per cent of second-year students and 31 per cent of students in their third year. 

According to the survey, most students are satisfied with the way their university has communicated with them: 70 per cent said they felt the messaging from their higher education institution on coronavirus has been either clear or very clear, compared with 18 per cent who said it had been either quite unclear or very unclear.

The survey also showed that 49 per cent of the students surveyed were happy with the online learning put in place by their institution to replace face-to-face teaching. This was compared with 23 per cent of students who were dissatisfied and 29 per cent who said that they were neither satisfied or dissatisfied.

Hepi also surveyed 500 university applicants and found that 29 per cent feel less confident that they will get a place at their chosen university because of the impact of the pandemic.

Because A-level exams have been cancelled this year, students will receive grades based on teacher assessment, a class ranking and the past performance of their school.

The poll showed that 20 per cent of students now feel more confident they will get into their chosen institutions and just under half 46 per cent feel equally confident.

It found that only 7 per cent said they were likely to change their first choice of university because of the coronavirus outbreak, while 70 per cent said that it has had no impact on their choice.

Rachel Hewitt, Hepi’s director of policy and advocacy, said the results show that universities are supporting students and applicants well through the crisis.

“Despite having to scale up online provision very quickly, few students are dissatisfied with the offering from their institution. Both applicants and students feel they have had clear information around the pandemic,” she said.

“On admissions, it is clear applicants need greater certainty about what will happen to their university places. It is essential this group, who have already lost out on the end of their school experience, are not disadvantaged from getting into the university of their choice. The data show this is a concern for a significant minority of applicants.”

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that applicants are “already suffering from a turbulent end to their current stage of education and need support as they move on to university”.

“We need to provide support and safety nets so students are not disadvantaged by the coronavirus crisis. We want guarantees from universities that students who decide to appeal their results or resit exams can hold their university place while they go through that process,” she said.

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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