The Student COVID-19 Insights Survey (SCIS) from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has found that students’ wellbeing has worsened since November 2020.

Average life satisfaction, measured out of 10, has fallen by 9% to 4.8 compared to 5.3 in November. Self-reported anxiety levels remained unchanged for students, but at 5.2 out of 10 students report a statistically significantly higher level of anxiety than the general population (4.2). 63% of students reported that their mental health had been negatively affected, compared to 57% when last surveyed. The ONS identified this change as being of particular significance.

Students also reported increasing dissatisfaction with their academic experience compared to November 2020, rising from 29% to 37%. However, 85% of students said they were either “extremely likely” or “likely” to continue their studies.

Tim Gibbs, from the ONS Public Services Analysis Team, commented: “These numbers are not surprising considering the new lockdown measures in place and the fact that many students have not yet returned to their university town or city. This is also reflected in the academic experience scores, with the number of students reporting dissatisfaction showing an increase since the last report.”

The SCIS also analysed the travel patterns of students and whether they had returned to university in-person at the start of 2021. At the end of 2020, 33% of students left university accommodation to spend the holiday with family or friends. Of this portion, 40% have since returned to university accommodation. Out of the 60% who have not returned, 32% reported not knowing when they would return to university, and 14% said they were not planning to return this term.

The ONS has cautioned that care must be taken when interpreting the findings of the SCIS, due to the small sample size of students who responded. Out of 100,000 invitations to participate, only 2,698 complete responses were received between January 8th-18th. Although the ONS have weighted their data to be representative of students studying at English universities, the small sample size has introduced an element of uncertainty into their findings. This includes using confidence intervals to determine whether differences in data compared to November 2020 are statistically significant.

Image: Tim Gouw via

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