Ben HaywardDecember 10th
2020

There has been a huge decline in the mental health of students since September, an Office for National Statistics (OfS) survey has revealed. 

57% of university students said their mental health and wellbeing had deteriorated since the start of term, with over a fifth stating it has gotten ‘much worse’.

As a group, students are more anxious than the general population of the UK, with mean scores of 5.3 compared with 4.2 respectively, where 0 is ‘not anxious at all’ and 10 is ‘completely anxious’, the report found.

Over half of the respondents to the ONS survey of students in England also said they were either ‘dissatisfied’ or ‘very dissatisfied’ with their social experience during the academic year.

Both the government and universities encouraged students to return to campuses in September, with many offering a mixture of online and in-person teaching, however many students have reported either no face-to-face contact time or a lack of online resources. 

The survey - which was carried out between 20 and 25 November, found that 51% of students are likely to request a refund of some or all their tuition fees if all university teaching is carried out online from January, with over half also saying their academic experience would be negatively affected if all lessons went online.

Director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), Rachel Hewitt, said: "It would be interesting to see who students would attribute this dissatisfaction to and whether they believe universities could have offered a better experience or whether it was inevitable that this term was going to be unsatisfactory, due to the pandemic."

She added: "Clearly supporting student mental health, which was already in decline before the pandemic, is going to be critical as we move through and beyond this pandemic. Addressing this will need to be a joint effort between universities, wider mental health services and will require well-funded services."

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS), said: "Whether teaching is delivered in-person or not, students should still expect a high-quality academic experience, particularly as learning moves entirely online ahead of the Christmas break.

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson said: "We understand this may not be the university experience which would be delivered in a normal year, but this is not a normal year and universities are investing heavily in Covid-19 safety measures, enhanced digital learning platforms, and additional learning and wellbeing support.”

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