- How has Covid-19 impacted UK universities?
- How has Covid-19 affected students?
- Is ‘blended’ learning the future?
- How to support your child through higher education
The education sector has been one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic but how has this affected UK universities and student wellbeing specifically? 🦠 Let’s take a closer look at how you can support your child through their higher education experience in these unprecedented times.
How has Covid-19 impacted UK universities? 🎓
Almost two years on from the first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the UK, Covid-19 has touched every corner of the globe with far-reaching repercussions impacting not only our health but our economic and social wellbeing. 🌍
Although a global pandemic has undoubtedly acted as the primary force for change in our higher education institutions, it is worth noting that the UK’s unique political situation has a part to play in any overall assessment we make.
Brexit has contributed to an era of uncertainty and change, especially regarding international students choosing whether to study in the UK and our own students’ study abroad options. More broadly, there have been five Ministers for Universities, four Secretaries of State for Education, three prime ministers and two general elections in the past six years alone.
With the wider context duly noted, let’s take a look at how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected UK universities specifically. 💁
UK Universities rely on endowments, funding councils and tuition fees to survive. They have seen large deficits appear due to a significant reduction in international student intake and an increased deferral rate of domestic students – both of which have had knock-on effects on accommodation, catering and research income. Universities have also needed to dramatically increase their safeguarding and digital provisions.
Safety on campus 🦺
University campuses are exciting cultural hubs that bring students together – traditionally one of the highlights of university life – in a Covid-era, this environment has posed great safety risks. Institutions’ responsibility to their staff and students has intensified, undertaking huge measures to prevent the spread of the disease on their campuses has further stretched administrative teams and resources.
Distance learning 💻
With the implementation of social distancing came the subsequent move to online tuition. Continuing to deliver courses via online sessions has been integral to maintaining access to higher education throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. While some universities already had the necessary systems in place to deliver digital training, others have struggled under the weight of this unprecedented demand.
How has Covid-19 affected students?
The many impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on students in the UK are broad, ongoing and still being measured. So far, first-hand accounts, media coverage and research studies suggest that the effects on students have been far-reaching and predominantly but not exclusively negative. 😷
The biggest consequence has been a downturn in students’ mental health. With limited-to-no access to university buildings, libraries and resources, online tuition in place of face-to-face lessons and isolation from friends and peers, it’s no surprise that students are suffering from increased rates of anxiety and depression. 😟
A Psychology Learning and Teaching journal study also found that new students are more likely to suffer from “impostor syndrome” because they have won their place at university on the back of teacher-assessed A-level grades rather than exams. 🙇
Universities have worked hard to deliver an equivalent academic experience to students via digital channels but a recent study by the Office of National Statistics reported that around a third of students were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their academic experience because of the quality of learning and learning delivery. 👎
Studying at home has provided respite and support for some students but brings challenges of its own including intermittent internet, less access to resources and facilities, more distraction and forced separation from peers and lecturers with lower socio-economic status students being among the worst affected.
Is ‘blended’ learning the future?
It is difficult to predict what long-term effects the Covid-19 pandemic may have had on UK higher education with any certainty but despite the huge and obvious negative implications, research is showing that there may also be some positives to take from our recent evolutions.
A research project which asked University of Cambridge staff and students to describe their biggest hopes – and darkest fears – for post-pandemic higher education has found that many would support a shift to ‘blended’ learning – a balance between virtual and face-to-face education. 👥
Many feel that this move to enhanced online engagement and delivery can and will strengthen universities’ position within wider society and lead to a more accessible and affordable experience for all. 🙌
How to support your child through higher education
University offers young people an opportunity to experience newfound freedom, develop their own interests and meet new people from all over the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has hampered some of those exciting opportunities. However, there are plenty of ways that you as a parent can help them to stay connected, enjoy their experience and succeed academically despite these challenging times. 💪
Have a conversation 👂
It might seem obvious but we know it’s not always easy. We are not suggesting you encroach on your child’s freedom, just try to stay in touch and keep channels of communication open. Give them the opportunity to tell you exactly what they need.
Designated study area 🪑
Do your best to create an individual study area for your child that is separate from their sleeping and living space. At the very least, encourage them not to work from their bed – it’s difficult to be productive whilst snuggled up! Check out our top tips for staying well while working at a desk.
Talk to your child about balance and the importance of taking breaks. It is recommended to take a break every hour to get the most out of study sessions. Why not encourage some bursts of exercise via a brisk walk or a bike ride, or sit down to do some mindfulness or meditation together.
Schedules and rotas 📆
Helping your child to stay motivated can be tricky. We believe getting up and dressed early in the day, sticking to a schedule, creating a rota if sharing space or equipment and setting achievable goals all help to keep your child on track.
Social contact 🤝
Building lasting friendships is a big part of going to university and your child might well be feeling disconnected. Encourage them to stay in touch with friends and coursemates via group chats, virtual meeting spaces and as much face-to-face contact as is possible and safe.
University resources 📚
Remind your child that they can still regularly check in with their tutors and lecturers. They can always email or call if they have concerns about deadlines or access to course materials. University wellbeing services are also an excellent place to look if you think your child may benefit from additional support.