Majority of students do not expect further in-person lessons this academic year

Eleanor Busby, PA Education Correspondent
·3-min read

The majority of university students are not expecting to receive any more face-to-face teaching this academic year, a survey suggests.

But two in three students are living in their usual term-time accommodation amid pandemic restrictions, according to a poll by a think tank.

The findings, published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), come as universities in England await details on when all students will be allowed to return to campus for in-person activities.

Last week, Universities UK (UUK), which represents vice-chancellors, said institutions want students back on campus “as soon as possible after Easter” for face-to-face experiences and catch-up support.

But more than half (56%) are not expecting to receive any more in-person teaching this academic year, according to the Hepi survey of 1,044 students.

Two in three students said they have not received any financial reimbursement from their university or accommodation provider as a result of the pandemic.

Less than a fifth (19%) have received reimbursement from their accommodation provider, 13% from their university and 2% from both.

University leaders fear that all students in England may not be allowed to return to campus until mid-May at the earliest under Covid-19 restrictions.

The majority of students – apart from those on critical courses – were told not to return to campus as part of the lockdown announced in January.

Students who need additional mental health support, or who do not have access to appropriate study spaces in their vacation accommodation, are allowed to return to term-time accommodation.

The survey, from Hepi and YouthSight between March 11 and 16, suggests that 66% of students are living in their usual term-time accommodation.

It also found that nearly two thirds (63%) of students said their mental health was a little or much worse as a result of the pandemic.

University students on practical courses, who require specialist equipment and facilities, began returning to face-to-face teaching on March 8 in England.

For all remaining students, the Government has said it will review options for students to return to face-to-face lessons by the end of the Easter holidays.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at Hepi, said: “In recent weeks we have seen more guidance published about how restrictions will start to be lifted across the UK, but the picture for students remains unclear.

“There is talk about the student ‘return to campus’, but 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.”

A UUK spokesman said: “While it is positive to see that most students have been satisfied with the response of their university to the pandemic and their online learning experience, there is strong evidence that a 12 April return for all university students would benefit the mental health, wellbeing and development of those students who have had no in-person teaching or access to facilities this year.

“Universities are fully prepared and looking forward to welcoming students back to Covid-secure environments as soon as possible after Easter, with a variety of enriching activities on offer including in-person teaching, access to study spaces, studios and sports facilities, alongside additional support for those due to graduate this year.

“Universities have proven that the safety measures put in place – including regular asymptomatic testing, additional cleaning, support for self-isolating students and adherence to guidance on ventilation and face coverings – have enabled effective management of the virus on campuses, with minimal infection rates in face-to-face teaching settings and limited onward transmission to local communities.

“When making this decision, we urge the Government to take account of the rigorous Covid-safety measures universities have implemented as well as the clear benefits for students of a 12 April return.”