Most UK students expect teaching to stay online for rest of year

Many undergraduates not expecting face-to-face tuition before summer, even though majority are at term-time addresses

April 1, 2021
Hand drawn rainbow expressing thank to NHS and key workers displayed at glass window University of Greenwich during coronavirus outbreak
Source: iStock

Most students at UK universities do not expect to receive any more face-to-face teaching this academic year, according to a survey.

Vice-chancellors have pushed for all learners to be allowed to return to campuses after Easter, citing the potential benefit to students’ well-being and development. Only students on priority and practical courses are receiving in-person tuition at the moment because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But a survey of more than 1,000 full-time undergraduates conducted for the Higher Education Policy Institute found that 56 per cent did not expect to receive any more face-to-face teaching this academic year. Forty-four per cent did, according to the survey, which was published on 1 April.

Some institutions, such as the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrews, as well as the London School of Economics, have indicated that they do not expect to resume face-to-face teaching before the end of the academic year. There have been suggestions that, in England, the Westminster government will push back the full reopening of campuses to mid-May – usually the start of exam season – or later.

Even though most students did not expect to receive any more in-person tuition, the Hepi survey – conducted by YouthSight – found that two-thirds of respondents were currently living in their normal term-time accommodation, compared to 34 per cent who were not.

Rachel Hewitt, Hepi’s director of policy and advocacy, said that despite “talk about the student ‘return to campus’…these results clearly show that many students are already in their term-time accommodation, despite most not expecting face-to-face teaching to return this academic year”.

“Governments across the UK should take heed of these results in developing their plans to ease restrictions,” Ms Hewitt said.

Among other findings, the survey found that two-thirds of students had not received any financial reimbursement from their university or accommodation provider because of disruption caused by Covid-19. Around a fifth (19 per cent) had received reimbursement from their accommodation provider, while 13 per cent had received reimbursement from their university, and 2 per cent had received reimbursement from both.

Overall, 54 per cent of students said that they were satisfied with the quality of online learning that had replaced face-to-face teaching, compared to 26 per cent who were dissatisfied.

Most students – 61 per cent – said that they were satisfied with how their institution had handled their remaining assessments for the academic year; 22 per cent were not.

In an echo of previous surveys, however, 63 per cent of respondents said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health.

Ms Hewitt said that despite “challenging circumstances”, university staff had “provided an online experience that most students are satisfied with”.

“However, universities will need to continue to be mindful of the impact that the pandemic is having on students’ mental health and what this means for the delivery of their support services,” she said.

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