Locked-down students had less time in class but felt more engaged

Annual survey of UK students also reveals significant increase in students’ caring responsibilities and paid work

November 12, 2020
Man and woman practicing social distancing in university
Source: iStock

Despite reporting much lower levels of participation in taught classes, students also reported high levels of engagement with staff during the coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey.

The UK Engagement Study 2020, conducted by Advance HE and based on the responses of nearly 14,000 students, found that just 38 per cent reported spending 11 hours or more in taught study during lockdown, compared with 49 per cent of those who responded to the survey before lockdown.

The proportion of students spending 11 or more hours in classes each week overall, 46 per cent, remained the same as last year, but was still considerably lower than in 2016, when it was at 55 per cent.

According to the report, the lower figures for taught study reflected feedback from students in most demographic groups, such as different year groups and ethnic groups, “so we may reasonably conclude that this is reflective of a clear perceived difference in teaching hours after 16 March [the start of the UK lockdown]”.

Despite this, the survey found that students reported higher levels of engagement with staff during the lockdown.

If found that 45 per cent of students reported high or fairly high levels of partnership with staff, during the pandemic, compared with 42 per cent before. Students also reported higher levels of interaction with staff before the pandemic, compared with before 16 March. According to Advance HE, this was particularly encouraging as they are “two of the areas where engagement usually tends to be lower than we might hope”.

Of the survey’s seven engagement categories, four increased during lockdown.

However, the report notes that overall engagement with staff continues to be relatively low, with the proportion of students reporting high levels of engagement in the seven categories never reaching 50 per cent. This is “unfortunate given how developmental these interactions can be”, according to the report.

The survey also revealed the additional challenges the pandemic and switch to online learning have created for the students.

During the lockdown period, the proportion of students spending time caring for others grew from 27 per cent to 45 per cent, while the proportion of students “working for pay” increased from 55 per cent before lockdown to 66 per cent afterwards.

Positively, students responding during lockdown were 2 per cent less likely to have considered leaving their course. In 2020 before the lockdown 26.9 per cent said that they were likely to leave their course, compared with 24.9 after lockdown. The overall figure also decreased from 27.4 per cent in 2019 to 26.5 per cent in 2020.

Jonathan Neves, head of business intelligence and surveys at Advance HE, said that it was “really encouraging” to see that, during the spring lockdown, interaction with staff increased, “which provides an opportunity for institutions to reflect on the positive initiatives that have been put in place to achieve this”.

“It is also striking how many students reported a large increase in caring responsibilities during the lockdown period, which brings home the range of responsibilities that students continue to balance as they engage with their studies,” he added. “This year has illustrated just how important it is to be in close contact with the student voice, and to do so efficiently and effectively in these particularly busy and challenging times.”

anna.mckie@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

These kind of surveys are entirely pointless as research has shown that an individual's assessment of time management has usually very low levels of accuracy.

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