Students Have 'Lost The Ability To Interact' Due To Pandemic, Says Public Health Expert | TOTUM
Ben HaywardMay 5th
2022

A public health expert has suggested that some university students have ‘lost their ability to interact’ due to the effects of the pandemic.

As reported by the Telegraph and Argus, Dr John Beal said that two years of online lectures and a lack of face-to-face socialising has had a profound effect on the mental health of students in Leeds.

Dr Beal, who also chairs Healthwatch Leeds, said he’d realised the full extent of the problem following a conversation with a local university chaplain, after research was published by mental health charity, Mind, last August, reporting that 34% of young people said the pandemic had made their mental health worse.

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Speaking at a meeting of Leeds health professionals on Thursday, Dr Beal said more attention must be paid to student wellbeing, after many were left isolated from their families and homes when the virus struck.

Dr Beal said: “There are cohorts of young adults who came to this city, a long way from home, who basically have had no social interaction.

“All their lectures have been online, all their seminars have been online. When they have liaised with friends they’ve done that using digital (technology).”

He continued: “There are some young people whose only social interaction has been digital and that has affected their mental health and wellbeing.

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“They have lost, the chaplin says, the ability to socially interact with their colleagues. They haven’t had the opportunity.”

The news comes as student complaints reached a record high in the last year, with the amount of compensation given to students exceeding £1.3m according to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA).

2,763 complaints were received by the OIA, with more than a third relating to the pandemic.The OIA noted that 'some students found that they weren't getting the learning experiences that they reasonably expected’.

While factors such as industrial strike action and staffing issues were mentioned, by far and away the most cited factor was the way courses were delivered. 

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A number of students reportedly complained that they were unable to access vital in-person facilities such as laboratories, along with many complaining that they were unable to complete their study abroad years.

Others raised the issue of an increased dependence upon remote learning with many reporting problems such as technical issues and struggles surrounding digital literacy.

The report found that online timed exams drastically impacted some students, while limited typing skills had poor consequences for others.

The National Union of Students (NUS) further corroborated these findings by highlighting the negative impact of digital poverty, with an official stating that the record number of complaints was ‘no surprise’ due to students being ‘at breaking point’.

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