Have students been getting the vaccine?

Nine out of ten students say they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 at least once - 78 percent have had two vaccine doses and 12 percent have had one.

Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe

Meanwhile 7 percent of students said they had not been vaccinated, and of those 31 percent said they were very or fairly likely to take a vaccine if offered, and 58 percent said they were fairly or very unlikely to do so.

Those are the headlines from S01E02 of the Office for National Statistics’ coronavirus and higher education students survey, this time undertaking its fieldwork from 27 September to 4 October 2021.

Last year the survey served mainly to demonstrate that students were doing pretty well at complying with Covid isolation and distancing rules, with an inevitably related decline in their mental health and satisfaction with the student experience.

The problem is that the questions were a bit “off” – never quite getting at what it would have been useful to know – and the lack of cross-tabs also meant the insights were some distance from actionable. Have things improved for this year’s iteration?

Maybe. One thing that’s hampering trust here is the fieldwork date and the sample – what we know is that 120,000 students were invited to take part via data held by the National Union of Students (NUS), which achieved a sample of 980 students in England weighted for age, gender and regional bias.

When you’re dealing with students other ways to weight are available – and what we don’t know is the proportion of the sample for whom the teaching term had started, or indeed the proportion that were enrolled on taught programmes at all.

It means that findings that tell us about satisfaction with the student experience are diverting at best until we get properly into the term. For what it’s worth 64 percent says they’re satisfied, falling by nine percentage points for those declaring 0 hours teaching attended in-person in the previous seven days.

One thing that would help us get a sense of whether to trust the numbers would be to compare the data on testing to what we know from other sources. On testing the “finding” here is that 55 percent of students had had a test in the previous seven days, which would imply that a figure of circa 1,141,800 lateral flow tests should show up in DHSC figures. The problem is that we’ve not seen LF figures for months “due to a data quality issue identified between 20 May 2021 to the current reporting week.”

On mental health, the average life satisfaction score for students was 6.5, significantly higher than reported in late May 2021 (5.9) – however, this is still lower than for those aged 16 to 29 years in general (6.9) and significantly lower than the adult population in Great Britain (7.1).

One interesting aspect of that is that there seems to be a relationship between mental health improving or declining since the start of term, and satisfaction with the academic experience. We could do with a few more weeks’ data yet, and correlation isn’t causation – but given there’s also relationship in the numbers between face to face teaching hours and satisfaction, will be a relationship to keep an eye on.

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